HOMS, Syria, April 7 (UPI) -- Father Frans Van der Lugt, a Jesuit priest, was abducted from the Jesuit residence in Homs and killed Monday by masked gunmen.
The 76 year-old Dutch priest had been working in Syria since the 1960s. "Despite the dangers," the Jesuit Curia in Rome said, "he had voluntarily decided to remain in the city of Homs in solidarity with the people who could not leave the city."
Around 8 a.m. on Monday morning, masked gunmen took Fr. Frans from his former residence, beat him, and executed him "with two bullets to the head in front of the Jesuit residence in Homs," Vatican Radio reported.
Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi, spokesman to Pope Francis, said that Fr. Frans "died as a man of peace, who with great courage in an extremely dangerous and difficult situation, wanted to remain faithful to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated so many years of his life and spiritual service. Where people die, their faithful shepherds also die with them. In this time of great sorrow, we express our participation in prayer, but also great pride and gratitude for having had a brother so close to the most suffering in the testimony of the love of Jesus to the end."
Fr. Frans was born in 1938 and entered the Society of Jesus in 1958. He was ordained a priest in 1971. In addition to being a priest, he was also a psychotherapist and active in fostering inter-religious dialogue.
While war raged around him, Fr. Frans used social media "to keep viewers informed about the situation in Homs, and in Syria overall, speaking out against the suffering of the Syrian people," James Martin, SJ shared Monday on his Facebook page. He posted messages, like the one below, to YouTube.
[The Jesuit Curia in Rome]