Priest feared kidnapped in Syria

02 August 2013

L'ITALIA AL FUTURO/WIKI

Missing: Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio

Missing: Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio

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 ISIL leaders.

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).

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