Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

20140407cnsbr4831 webJesuit Father Frans van der Lugt chats with civilians in early January. (CNS photo/Thaer Al Khalidiya, Reuters)

ROME (CNS) – A 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit who refused to leave war-torn Syria, instead staying in Homs to help the poor and homeless, was beaten by armed men and killed with two bullets to the head, according to an email sent by the Jesuits' Middle East province to the Jesuit headquarters in Rome.

Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt, who had worked in Syria since 1966, declined suggestions to leave because he wanted to help Syria's suffering civilians -- "Christians and Muslims – anyone in need," said Father Giuseppe Bellucci, head of the Jesuits' press office.

The email, reporting that armed men had taken Father Van der Lugt, beaten him and then shot him dead in front of the Jesuit residence in Homs, was sent to the Jesuit headquarters April 7, Father Bellucci said. "That's all the information we have right now."

In a statement published later, Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, and the staff of the Jesuits' headquarters expressed their sorrow "for the brutal assassination of a man who dedicated his life to the poorest and neediest, especially in Homs, and who did not want to abandon them even at times of great danger."

"He always spoke of peace and reconciliation," the statement said, "and he opened his doors to all those asking help without distinction of race or religion. 'I don't see Muslims or Christians,' he used to say, 'but only human beings. I am the only priest and the only foreigner in this place, but I don't feel like a foreigner.'"
The Jesuits prayed that "his sacrifice would bring the fruit of peace and that it would be a further stimulus for silencing the weapons and setting aside hatred."

Father Van der Lugt became known around the world after appealing for aid for the people of the besieged city of Homs in a video posted on YouTube in late January.

The United Nations supervised an evacuation of about 1,400 people from Homs in early February; arriving in Jordan, the refugees confirmed Father Van der Lugt's accounts of people, especially young children, starving to death.

Speaking to Catholic News Service by telephone Feb. 6, the Jesuit had said: "There has been no food. People are hungry and waiting for help. No injured people have been allowed to leave. Families have been hoping to get out of the siege and out of the fighting between the two sides."

"The wounded have not received proper treatment, so healing has been difficult. Newborns die very quickly because of a lack of milk," he said. "There have been cases of death due to hunger and starvation."

In Syria, Jesuit Refugee Service announced it would close for three days after Father Van der Lugt's death.

"Father Frans was a beacon for all of us; he did not only preach about love and reconciliation but he lived it out every day – in humility and with compassion for all – until the very end," said Father Peter Balleis, JRS International director.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.