A Dutch Jesuit priest was abducted and shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the besieged Syrian city of Homs yesterday.
Father Frans van der Lugt, 75, who had lived in Syria since the early 1970s, was taken from his home and shot twice in the head, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported.
The priest had warned of the humanitarian suffering in Homs. “There is actually hardly anything left,” he told The Independent in a rare interview in February. “So if you stay, you stay for the struggle.”
"Father Frans was killed in the garden of our monastery," Rev. Ziad Hillal, another Jesuit who lived there with the Dutch priest, told Vatican Radio. "They shot him in the head. It was a premeditated act."
Lombardi praised van der Lugt as a man of great courage who "despite an extremely difficult and risky situation, wanted to remain faithful to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated his life and his spiritual service."
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page that van der Lugt "only brought good to Homs, was a Syrian among Syrians, (who) refused to abandon them even when it meant risking his own life."
Christians made up about 10 percent of Syria's population before protests in 2011 led to a wider civil war. The minority traditionally supported President Bashar al-Assad for protecting them and has been attacked by his opponents for that stand.
Additional reporting by Reuters