NEWS BRIEFS

– Tej Francis

ROME

After 6 years, family of kidnapped Jesuit is ‘in limbo’

(Crux) Family members of an Italian Jesuit priest who was kidnapped in Syria by members of ISIS in 2013, held a press conference in Rome on Monday to mark the anniversary of his disappearance and appeal to international authorities to find answers. “It’s been six years and we haven’t been able to learn anything,” said Francesca Dall’Oglio, sister of the kidnapped Jesuit, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, at the Foreign Press Association in Rome, July 29. “It’s true that he was kidnapped in a war zone, but some areas have now been liberated since November 2017,” she added.

The press conference was organized by the Friends of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio Association, together with Amnesty International and the Italian Press corps association. It marked the sixth anniversary since the Jesuit priest, founder of the Syrian monastery of Mar Musa, was kidnapped in Raqqa, Syria, not long before the city became a stronghold of the jihadist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Speaking at the conference were Dall’Oglio’s siblings, Francesca, Immacolata and Giovanni who said they have been living in a “limbo” ever since their brother disappeared in Syria.

“The last news? We have no confirmation, either dead or alive,” Francesca said. “Much more could have been done.” Inside Dall’Oglio’s suitcase, she said, they found his skullcap, his wallet and a few mementos.  “We never received any certain information from the authorities,” Francesca said. “We lack the perception that a real effort was made for Paolo.” Varying information has emerged from Italian, Middle Eastern and international news outlets, some declaring the priest still alive and in the hands of the terrorists and others stating that he died shortly after being captured. “We had reassurances and solidarity, but we need transparency that may rid us of the feeling that he was used for political purposes,” Francesca said.

POLAND

Polish priest attacked in sacristy during apparent robbery

A Catholic priest was severely beaten in an attack by three men in the sacristy of St. John the Baptist church in Szczecin on Sunday, in what was reportedly an attempted robbery. Fr. Aleksander Ziejewski, 68, was attacked July 28 shortly before the 6 pm Mass. He had responded to a call for help from the sacristan, who said three men had entered the sacristy and were trying to take a chasuble, claiming they needed it to celebrate Mass, according to the priest. According to Radio Szczecin, the men, who had also demanded other religious goods, intended to rob the church. Ziejewski told EWTN Poland that he entered the sacristy and asked the men to leave, when “one of them got angry, started to blaspheme,” and pushed both the sacristan and the church’s security guard, who was also present.

The same man then beat the priest before all three fled. Ziejewski said he believes the man, when he hit him, used a rosary around his hand in the manner of brass knuckles. The rosary was taken from the sacristy. The priest described his face as “flooded with blood.” According to the Szczecin police, the three men, ranging in age from 27 to 53 years old, were caught and held for questioning Monday.  A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamień said Monday the priest will need surgery due to the severity of his wounds. The spokesman said the attack could have been motivated by anti-religious sentiment, because the men entered the sacristy during the day, close to the start of an evening Mass, when it would be expected that someone would be present. “We recommend offering [prayers for] the victims of this brutal beating, as well as praying for the conversion and repentance of the perpetrators,” the spokesman said.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

UNIQUE POLITICAL IDEOLOGY SHAPES ARGENTINA’S SLUM PRIESTS

(Crux) “Every life is worth the effort,” is what then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would tell a group of priests who live and minister in Buenos Aires’s slums. The future pope was urging them to help victims of drug addiction, no matter how lost a cause a case might seem. In a nutshell, this mantra seems to be the driving engine of the nearly 40 priests who today live among Argentina’s poorest in the country’s capital. Three of the priests who live and work in the villas miseria – slums of misery – spoke with Crux in recent days, and all agreed that even though these shanty towns have been around for decades, they were considered “invisible” until the early 2000s, when an economic crisis in the country made them impossible to ignore.

An estimated seven percent of those who live in the capital live in one of several shantytowns, some of which are not even on the edges of the city, but in its beating heart. Such is the case of the Villa 31, arguably the most emblematic of them all.  The “31” was born in the 1930s – then called the “Slum of Unemployment” – and ever since, authorities have unsuccessfully tried to eradicate it. Two blocks away from Buenos Aires’s most exclusive neighbourhood, it’s visible from virtually every route in and out of the city.  Almost all of the slums today have at least one priest who lives “as another neighbour,” as one of them put it. Though Pope Francis is often credited – and blamed – for the movement officially known as Priest Movement for the Emergency Slums, their work began back in the 1960s.

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