THERE are fears that an Italian Jesuit priest may have become
the latest Christian cleric in Syria to fall victim to the violence
that is engulfing the country.
Dr Paolo Dall'Oglio went missing on Monday in Raqqa, a town in
northern Syria which is controlled by the al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel
group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). On Wednesday,
Pope Francis, a fellow-Jesuit, said in his homily at a mass
celebrating the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola: "I think of our
brother in Syria in this moment."
Reports say that he met ISIL leaders in order to seek the
release of Kurds held hostage by Islamist fighters. He has not been
seen since. Some sources say that he has been kidnapped, while
others believe that he could merely be out of communication.
Fr Dall'Oglio has lived in Syria for three decades. He is an
outspoken supporter of the uprising against the Bashar al-Assad
regime, and was expelled from Syria last year. He had recently
spoken out against Islamist attacks on the Syrian Kurdish community
near the Turkish border, and these remarks are said to have angered
Islamist rebels are being blamed for the kidnapping of the
Syrian Oriental Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mor Yohanna Ibrahim,
and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, the Most Revd Paul
Yazigi, who have been missing since late April (
News, 31 May).