Deranged Man Attacks Preist after Watching Da Vinci Code

via Times Online

A Rome priest is fighting for his life after being stabbed in the neck and stomach by a deranged man who had just watched the film The Da Vinci Code on television.

Eyewitnesses said that Marco Luzi, 25, asked to see Father Canio Canistri, 68, parish priest at the church of Santa Marcella in the San Saba district on the Aventine Hill, and then attacked him with a knife hidden in a cloth. An elderly parishioner who came to the priest’s aid is also in serious condition.

A Peruvian childminder and a policeman were also injured as the assailant fled through a nearby park. Police said Mr Luzi, a former medical student with a history of psychiatric problems, had admitted watching the film version of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code on television the night before the frenzied assault.

At his flat nearby, where he lived with his mother Paola, investigators found material on the Apocalypse and the anti-Christ, and the telephone number of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

There was also a large reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which is at the heart of the mystery in The Da Vinci Code, with a note pointing to one of the disciples reading: “This is the hand in which a knife is hidden”.

Police also found a box on which was written “In here are the keys to the Sixth and Seventh Seals, closed by order of Satan and Jesus Christ. Give all these things to the Pope.”

A rambling note read: “Between my death and my return many grave events will take place, years will pass, perhaps centuries. Christianity will be reviewed in the light of the new alliance between Jesus and the Madonna”. Other notes referred to Islam, Satanism and robots.

Luzi told police: “I am the anti-Christ”, and said he had heard voices telling him to attack the priest, adding: “I have carried out my mission”. In his pockets investigators found a rosary and a note reading “This is just the beginning: 666”, the mystical number said to refer to Satan.

Neighbours said that Mr Luzi was “a loner, a solitary introvert who sometimes quarrelled violently with his mother”. Doctors said Father Canistri was in intensive care, while the pensioner who went to his aid at the church, Antonio Farrace, 78, a retired policeman, was also “in serious condition”.

The Peruvian nanny, Rosemary Sotero Rivera, 37, was attacked by Luzi as he ran through a park after fleeing from the church. Witnesses said she threw herself on the three year old girl in her charge to protect her, and was stabbed in the shoulder.

Mr Luzi was then chased by two policemen on motorcycles who dismounted and tackled him. “We couldn’t fire our weapons, there were too many bystanders” said Luca Gori, 41, one of the police officers, who was lightly wounded in the stomach during the struggle with Luzi, who was covered in blood and still armed.

Parishioners on the Aventine Hill said Father Canistri, like many other parish priests, had repeatedly expressed concern over breaks ins and thefts at the church, and had asked his congregation to be “vigilant”. Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, congratulated the police for capturing the attacker, and said the assault “once again shows that mental disorders amount to a social emergency”.

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