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Jesuit priest “man of peace” killed in Homs, Syria

(Vatican Radio) Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt, a priest who lived in the war-torn Syrian city of Homs, was killed this morning. Fr. Alex Basili, Provincial of the Jesuits in the Middle East and the Maghreb confirmed the news to the Catholic news agency Fides. Fides reports that on Monday, April 7 , at around 8 am, Father Frans van der Lugt was abducted by armed men who beat him and then killed him with two bullets to the head in front of the Jeusuit residence in Homs.

In a statement, the Holy See’s press spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said Fr. Van der Lugt “died as a man of peace, who with great courage in an extremely dangerous and difficult situation, wanted to remain faithful to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated so many years of his life and spiritual service. Where people die, their faithful shepherds also die with them. In this time of great sorrow, we express our participation in prayer, but also great pride and gratitude for having had a brother so close to the most suffering in the testimony of the love of Jesus to the end."

Father van der Lugt had lived in Syria since 1966, after a brief period spent in Lebanon. He was also a psychotherapist and very involved in interreligious dialogue . In Homs in the 1980s, he opened Al Ard ("the land "), a center of spirituality built just outside the city. The center housed about 40 children with mental disabilities from nearby villages .

In the last three years of war, the Dutch religious lived in a monastery that is located in the old city, where civilians were besieged for many months by the regular army . The clergyman had often lamented the lack of medicines, food and aid to the beleaguered civilians, calling urgently for an agreement to intervene on behalf of the civilians caught up in the conflict.