x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Pope departs on trip to Cyprus

Pope Benedict XVI departs for a sensitive trip to Cyprus, just a day after a bishop, who was scheduled to meet with the pontiff, was killed in Turkey.

VATICAN CITY // Pope Benedict XVI has departed for a sensitive three-day trip to Cyprus, just a day after the killing in Turkey of a bishop who had been scheduled to meet with the pontiff. Benedict left from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport on Friday at around 9.40am local time. Cyprus, an island divided between ethnic Turks and Greeks, is viewed by the Vatican as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.

The pope's meetings with church officials from across the region could be overshadowed by the death of Bishop Luigi Padovese. A court in Iskenderun says the driver of the Roman Catholic bishop has been charged with his murder. Murat Altun has been jailed pending trial on accusations he stabbed the 63-year-old to death. The decision comes a day after the apostolic vicar in Anatolia was killed in the city.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said Bishop Padovese's killing shows the "difficult conditions" Catholics face in the Middle East. A court says the driver of a Roman Catholic bishop killed in southern Turkey * AP