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Pak minister killing 'unspeakable': Vatican

world Updated: Mar 02, 2011 15:52 IST

The Vatican on Wednesday condemned as "unspeakable" the murder of a Catholic Pakistani government minister opposed to an Islamic blasphemy law, and called for an end to persecution of Christians.

The attack was a "new act of violence of a terrible gravity," said papal spokesman Federico Lombardi after minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead in broad daylight in a residential area of Islamabad earlier on Wednesday.

"To our prayers for the victim, our condemnation of the act of unspeakable violence, our closeness to the Pakistani Christians subject to hate, we add an appeal concerning the dramatic urgency of the defense of religious freedom and of Christians who are suffering from violence and persecution," he added.

In comments to reporters, Lombardi also stressed the need to defend religious freedom and end persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Bhatti, a member of Pakistan's tiny Christian community, had been a vocal opponent of the country's controversial blasphemy law despite receiving death threats following the murder of another politician opposed to the law.