Report: Jesuit priest shot dead in Homs, Syria

From The Catholic Herald: 

A Dutch Jesuit priest who chose to remain in the beseiged city of Homs to care for its starving population has been shot dead, according to media reports.

Fr Frans van der Lugt, a 75-year-old psychologist, had remained in the rebel-controlled Old City throughout the siege, which is now over 600-days long, with government forces surrounding them. He had been offered the chance to leave, but chose to stay. His death was reported by the pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV, and the Jesuits have since told the Catholic News Service that Fr van der Lugt was beaten and then shot with two bullets in the head.

In February he had told the Daily Telegraph that the city had been abandoned by the international community. He came to Syria in 1966, and in the 1980s had set up an agricultural project outside the city to help young people with mental disabilities. He said that hunger was sending some people insane.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

UPDATE: You can read the February story about Fr. van der Lugt from the Telegraph here. 

And The Associated Press has additional details

The fact that the 72-year-old Van Der Lugt was gunned down in a rebel-held area will likely underscore fears of many in Syria’s Christian and Muslim minorities for the fate of their communities should Syrian President Bashar Assad be overthrown by rebels in the country’s civil war.

Van der Lugt’s death was reported by Homs-based priest Assad Nayyef, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the state-run news agency, SANA.

According to both Nayyef and the Observatory, a masked man opened fire on the elderly priest inside his home in the Jesuit monastery in Homs early on Monday morning.

During the three-year civil war, Van Der Lugt repeatedly refused to leave Bustan al-Diwan, despite a series of U.N. evacuations this year that helped hundreds to leave blockaded Homs areas.

A friend of the slain priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety, said Van Der Lugt refused to leave until all Christians were evacuated. The priest lived with 24 other Christians in the monastery.

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