Jesuit priest likely kidnapped in Syria

VATICAN CITY — A prominent Italian Jesuit who is an outspoken supporter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad … Continued

VATICAN CITY — A prominent Italian Jesuit who is an outspoken supporter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went missing in Syria Monday (July 29), fueling speculation that he has been kidnapped by an Islamist group.

The Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, 58, lived for three decades in Syria, where he established an ecumenical community at Mar Musa on the site of an early Christian monastery, engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and forging close ties with the local population.

He was expelled in 2012 by the Assad government for his support of the rebels.

The Reuters news agency reported late on Monday that Dall’Oglio was abducted in the eastern city of Raqqa by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida.

But according to a close friend and collaborator of Dall’Oglio in Rome, the priest could have gone off the grid as he tried to secure the release of one or more hostages kidnapped by the Islamist group.

He had traveled to rebel-controlled areas of Syria several times in recent months.

The friend, who who asked to be quoted by his first name Riccardo because he is a Syrian national and has relatives and friends in Syria, said he received his last email from Dall’Oglio on July 26.

“Tomorrow, that is in two hours, I will leave from here and enter Syria for a difficult mediation . pray for me,” the priest wrote from Gaziantep, Turkey.

On Wednesday, both the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vatican couldn’t confirm that Dall’Oglio had been kidnapped, saying that the situation is unclear and that no firm leads have been established yet.

The Vatican ambassador to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, told the AsiaNews news agency that he was “surprised” by the kidnapping reports. “He is well known there and he is quite respected in the rebel areas,” he said.

Dall’Oglio’s story highlights the difficult situation of Syria’s Christian minority, caught in the three-year-old conflict between the Sunni-led uprising and the regime of Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith with links to Shiite Islam.

Some Christians, though initially supportive of the rebellion, have increasingly become targets of Islamist groups in recent months, as the fighting intensified and the conflict became more polarized along sectarian and religious lines.

Most of Syria’s Christian leaders have taken a more cautious stance and have voiced support for the Assad regime. As an outspoken supporter of the uprising, Dall’Oglio stood out.

At a Mass in Rome with fellow Jesuits on Wednesday, Pope Francis voiced concern for Dall’Oglio’s fate, and linked him to other Jesuits who have suffered “insults, contempt and poverty” for their mission.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • Ormond

    Is it actually possible to be kidnapped by your own friends? Perhaps this rouge European, Jihad supporting priest orchestrated the event to gain more attention from the Western media. I doube there will be many indiginous Syrian Christians worried for him! This article is inaccurate in repeating Paolo dall’Oglio’s assertion that he was expelled by the Syrian government. In fact he was ordered to leave Syria by the Syriac Catholic Bishop of Homs, Mons. Théophile Georges Kassab and there after the Jesuit order in Syria disassociated themselves from his position and his actions.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186686495
The End of Surveillance for New York Muslims — For Now

How American Muslims modeled the right response to systematic injustice.