On Wednesday, Pope Francis told listeners of his pain and deep grief from the killing of a Jesuit priest from the Netherlands who was 75 years old in Syria. The pope once again appealed to all involved for to end violence.
The priest, Frans van der Lugt had lived since the sometime in 1970s in Syria. He had become known widely for refusing to leave behind the Christians that had remained in Homs a city held by rebels and that was blocked in by forces from the government.
The priest was beaten then shot to death by gunmen who have yet to be identified. The killing took place on Monday at the priest’s monastery.
Pope Francis speaking to his weekly audience said the brutal killing of van der Lugt had filled him with profound grief and pain. It has made him think once more of all the people who have suffered and died in the tortured country of Syria, his beloved Syria that for too long has been gripped in a bloody war, which just metes out great destruction and death.
He asked everyone listening to join him in prayer for Syria and the region for peace to come. He also sent a call to the people responsible inside Syria as well as the international community to lay down the arms and put an end to the violence. He called for an end to the war and an end to the destruction.
The pope urged that those in Syria respect human rights and that the people in need receive the humanitarian assistance they deserve.
Christians represent only 10% of the population in Syria prior to the 2011 protests that led to the current civil war, which has to date displaced more than one third of the population and has taken the lives of over 150,000.
Syria’s Christian minority has traditionally been supportive of the President Bashar al-Assad regime due to the protection he has give to them and because of that, Bashar’s opponents have attacked the Christians.