A priest helping Christians sheltering in Syria’s Old City of Homs has been murdered.
Dutch Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt was shot twice in the head this morning, April 7.
Speaking from Syria, fellow Jesuit Fr. Ziad Hillal told C
charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “Fr. Frans was apparently killed by
targeted headshots. We have received a phone report from a Christian who was
with him in the Old City.”
Early reports suggested he had been killed by an unknown sniper who shot him while he tended his small garden. Later reports said that he had been abducted by armed men, beaten and then executed in front of his residence in Homes.
The 75-year-old Fr Frans van der Lugt, who had worked in Syria since 1967, had been looking after 89 Christians trapped in the Old City who were sheltering in an old monastery.
The number fell to around 20-25 in February 2014 after a three-day truce between warring sides allowed people to leave the Old City, but Fr. Hillal reported th
at the Dutch priest had remained to take care of
those who could not leave.
Fr. Hillal accompanied ACN to Brussels on March 27th, 2014, to speak to EU politicians about the situ
ation in Homs.
The priest explained why some Christians had remained behind in the Old City.
He said, “The UN represent
atives were urgently
required to leave Homs and go to another city; we had to stop abruptly before
finishing the evacu ations.”
“Fr. Frans and the remaining 20-25 Christians in the city did not manage to leave in time.”
ACN has, to d
ate, sent more than $3.3 million to projects in
Syria, including support for Fr. van der Lugt’s work in the Old City.
During the EU visit, Fr. Hillal spoke with Fr van der Lugt via Skype discussing the present situ
ation and the Dutch Jesuit’s upcoming birthday,
which Fr. Hillal hoped to be in Homs for so he could celebr ate with his confrere.
Fr. Hillal said, “For me, [Fr. van der Lugt] represents Christ in the world who is willing to lay down his life for his friends, who always gives us hope. He always asks how I am and does not talk much about himself.”
Speaking to ACN after the Jesuit’s de
ath this morning, he
added, “He was a ray of joy and hope to all those trapped in the Old City of
Homs, waiting for yet another UN permission to evacu ate.
“God have mercy on us.”
Fr. Hillal also said th
present it is not possible to reach the Old City to recover Fr van der Lugt’s
With picture of Fr. Frans van der Lugt, SJ (© ACN)
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.