Growing concern over plight of missing Jesuit priest in Syria

2013-08-06 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Italy’s foreign minister says an Italian Jesuit priest missing in Syria has probably been abducted by an Islamic group. Emma Bonino told state television Tuesday that the captors of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio appear to be a local version of al-Qaida and that Italy was working to secure his release.

The Jesuits of the Middle East earlier issued a statement expressing their deep concern over the fate of Father Dall’Oglio who went missing a week ago in northern Syria. One Jesuit priest based in neighbouring Beirut who knows Father Dall’Oglio well is Father Michael Zammit who spoke to Susy Hodges.

Listen to interview with Father Zammit:

Father Zammit says it’s a “very worrying” situation, with “a lot of concern” over the plight of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio. He also describes how the missing Italian priest is strongly committed to dialogue with the Moslem world and how he founded a monastic community of men and women which promotes Islamic-Christian dialogue.

Father Zammit says another of their Jesuit confreres, Father Frans van der Lugt, and the people he is living with, have been trapped for over a year in a Jesuit residence in the centre of the Syrian city of Homs. Asked what conditions are like in this particular district of the city which is still under the control of the rebels, Father Zammit says the situation is gruelling with “very scarce food” and with Father Frans and the others living in the residence are having to survive on “rice and other dried products.” He says their only water comes from that stored in wells. Despite these trying conditions, Father Zammit reveals how Father Frans has refused to leave the area unless the people he cares for can leave as well. “It’s a wonderful witness to what religious life is all about,” he says.