Overlooking St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis prayed for an Italian priest, who was kidnapped in the Middle East two years ago.
"In a few days, it will be two years since the kidnapping of Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio in Syria. I make an urgent appeal for the release of this esteemed priest.”
It was July 29, 2013, when Fr. Dall'Oglio was kidnapped in the Syrian city of Raqqa. A city that turned into a symbol of targeted attacks carried out by the Islamic State.
The priest was returning to Syria, after being forced out by the government for criticizing the rule of Bashar Al-Asad. He made his way back through the northern part of the country, where jihadists were imposing their rule.
He was hoping to mediate, so that kidnapped hostages would be freed. Instead, he too became a victim. Early reports suggested groups linked to Al Qaeda carried out the abduction. Other sources claim the priest is in a prison managed by the Islamic State, between the cities of Raqqa and Aleppo.
In his appeal for his release, the Pope also prayed for two Orthodox Bishops, Bulos Yaziji and Gregorios Ibrahim, who disappeared back in April 2013, after calling on local authorities to take action and protect religious minorities.
"I hope local and international authorities will act accordingly, so that these brothers are released soon.”
The Pope has made it a point to stay in touch with the family of Fr. Dall Oglio. Last summer during a luncheon, he met in private with his seven brothers, offering them a few words of comfort.
The Pope went even further in his appeal, by asking that all hostages abducted during war, be freed. In Syria, there are many religious whose whereabouts are unknown, among them Fr. Jaques Mourad and Fr.Antoine Boutros.