Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for Rome, announced his intent to open the beatification process for the priest, who was murdered while at prayer in his parish church in Turkey last Sunday.
The news was greeted with pronounced applause. From AFP:
Ruini said there would be no attempt to bend Church rules, but that he was "personally convinced that in Father Andrea's sacrifice, there are all the elements of Christian martyrdom".
The cardinal said that in Santoro's five years as a missionary priest in Trabzon, which like the rest of Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim, "he continued to pray and to seek to do good, in respect of the local laws".
Ruini rejected "with contempt" rumours in the Turkish media that the priest was engaged in trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith, saying they were "absurd and slanderous".
The murder has shocked Church and state in Italy, and in the priest's honour flags were lowered to half-mast at Rome's Vittoriano monument which houses a flaming tribute to Italy's unknown soldier.
A tribute from [Italian] President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, read out to mourners at the cathedral, said Santoro had been "struck down by blind violence as he prayed, in the fullness of a life consecrated to caring for the disenfranchised, to solidarity and friendship between men and women of diverse cultures and faiths."
PHOTO: AP/Pier Paolo Cito