The Monday murder of Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt in Homs, Syria, is bringing reactions from around the world. According to witnesses, an unknown gunman stormed the residence of the 75-year-old priest, took him to the garden of the monastery, and shot him in the head.
In a comment released by Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi briefly eulogized the priest, calling him “a man of peace” who chose to remain faithful to the Syrian people suffering from the conflict.
“Where the people die, their faithful pastor also died with them,” Fr. Lombardi said.
Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, expressed his sadness at the murder of “a man who has dedicated his life to the most poor and needy, particularly in the city of Homs.”
“He always spoke of peace and reconciliation and opened his door to all who asked for his help, regardless of race or religion,” Fr. Nicolas stated. “We hope and ask the Lord that his sacrifice bear fruits of peace and that it may be a further incentive to silence the weapons and put aside hatred.
International community denounces execution
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Fr. van der Lugt’s murder as “an inhuman act of violence.”
Fr. van der Lugt, he said, “heroically stood by the people of Syria” amid growing difficulties in the country. Ki-moon called on all sides in the conflict to ensure the safety of “people of every religion and ethnicity.”
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also denounced the killing, saying that the United States was “saddened” by the death of the Dutch priest.
“We condemn this violent attack and all attacks against innocent civilians and minority communities,” she added. “As we’ve said throughout this conflict, we deplore continued threats against Christians in Syria, and we reiterate that we stand on the side of the Syrian people, who are fighting for a Syria that is inclusive and pluralistic and respects all faiths.”
Syrian officials blamed the death on “terrorists,” a term used to describe those opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. A statement released by the office of Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba also condemned the attack, laying blame on the Assad regime who, he stated, stood “as the only beneficiary of [Fr. van der Lugt’s] death.” (J.A.E.)