Vatican left unsure of who abducted Jesuit missionary in Syria

(Photo: REUTERS / Rodi Said)A general view shows a church in the Assyrian village of Abu Tina, which was recently captured by Islamic State fighters, February 25, 2015. Kurdish militia pressed an offensive against Islamic State in northeast Syria on Wednesday, cutting one of its supply lines from Iraq, as fears mounted for dozens of Christians abducted by the hardline group. The Assyrian Christians were taken from villages near the town of Tel Tamr, some 20 km (12 miles) to the northwest of the city of Hasaka. There has been no word on their fate. There have been conflicting reports on where the Christians had been taken.

The kidnapping of a Jesuit missionary in Syria last week has continued to stump church authorities, with the top Vatican diplomat admitting he did not know where to start looking for the priest.

In an interview, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria Archbishop Mario Zenari surmised that several warring groups operating in the area could have had a hand in the disappearance of Father Jacques Mourad.

"Who did it? Islamic extremists, terrorists, the Islamic State, common criminals, the al Nusra Front: take your pick. It is anyone's guess," he told

"Still, we know that several groups could be involved, which are often at loggerheads with each other," he said.

"Hence, it is difficult to deal with the issue, because we do not know who to talk to. Anything is possible and we have no clue."

Zenari said Mourad had been taken away on May 23 while on the road to Palmyra. He was leaving the Monastery of Mar Musa, 140 kilometers (84 miles) northeast of Damascus, around 2:00 p.m.

Fides news agency reported that two armed men on motorcycles suddenly appeared at the monastery. Seeing Mourad, the armed men pointed their guns at the priest and forced him into his car.

A deacon named Boutros Hanna was also kidnapped by the same armed men, according to Fides.

Zenari lamented the disappearance of the missionary, describing the priest as a tough man who cared for the spiritual needs of his community despite facing danger posed by extremists.

The priest also watched over refugees, regardless of their faith, and provided their needs to the best of their abilities.

"I'm truly sorry for Father Jacques Mourad's abduction," the nuncio said. "I know him very well. He is an excellent priest from the Syrian Catholic Eparchy of Homs and a monk at Mar Musa, the same community as that Father dall'Oglio."

Zenari referred to Father Paolo dall'Oglio, who was abducted in July 2013 in Raqqa, the Syrian capital under control of jihadist fighters of the Islamic State.

"It is hard to find words to describe the situation in the country," the prelate continued. "We must fight against pessimism and remain confident."

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