Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., a leading English Dominican theologian and former master general of the Dominican order, narrowly escaped capture by an angry mob–being rescued at the last minute by the skilled driving of the local bishop.
The Catholic Herald reports this morning that Father Radcliffe, visiting Algeria to participate in a year-long period of reflection on the Church’s future in the North African nation, found himself in a dangerous situation. The priest was in a car being driven by Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Oran, when they had to stop because of fighting in the road ahead.
Father Radcliffe told The Catholic Herald:
“When we were on our way to visit a tiny community of the Petits Frères de Jesus in the Sahara we had to stop the car because there was fighting ahead. We noticed that a taxi was trying to bypass the fighting by driving up a muddy track (there had been a lot of rain even there), and so a number of cars followed. But we all got bogged down and it was impossible to continue. And so we made our way back to the road.
“But the rioters/insurgents or whoever had spotted us and were waiting with stones. The taxi was first and was quickly immobilised, with large stones put in front of it, so that the passengers could be taken hostage. We were next, and people blocked our passage, and started to put down stones in front of us.
“I spotted one young chap with a stone the size of a football. At first I thought that he was going to throw it through the windscreen. I tried to engage his eyes and transmit the impression that I was another human being, maybe like his favourite uncle! The bishop spotted a gap, slammed his foot on the accelerator and escaped, with a few stones hitting the back of the car. If we had delayed even 20 seconds we would have been caught. And I have no idea what would have happened then. It is a minor incident, the sort of thing that missionaries often endure.”
Let us pray, first, a prayer of thanksgiving that these two men of God were spared from death or capture–and then, a prayer of supplication, that God will bring peace to that troubled region.