The Chaldean bishop of Aleppo notes the lack of "no certain information" on the fate of the religious and those who took him. Possibilities and questions remain open, but with the passing of time hope of finding the truth is fading. The US has offered a reward for information.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Syrian Christians are asking that prayers continue so that one day we may find "the truth" of what happened to Jesuit Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio six years after he went missing.
Originally from Rome, the clergyman was the founder of the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi community. Over the years, various rumours have circulated about his fate, but none have ever proven reliable. The last known sighting was in Raqqa, the stronghold of the "Caliphate" in Syria.
"We have no certain information about his fate and that of those who took him," said Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo and former president of Caritas Syria. "Fr Dall’Oglio has been missing for six years and this leaves us in front of different possibilities and questions, to which there is no explanation and no definite answers."
"We cannot forget that he is a prominent representative of the Church in Syria, of Italian origin, and a very intelligent man who had certain local and international contacts. He was a much sought-after by various groups, a reliable interlocutor, and this raises further questions about the groups or forces that took him."
A charismatic figure in the Islamic-Christian interfaith dialogue, Fr Dall’Oglio went missing on the night between 28 and 29 July 2013 after he went to the headquarters of the Islamic State (IS) group in Raqqa, at the time a stronghold of the Caliphate in Syria. Here too, he sought to defend the values of dialogue and exchange, whilst demanding the release of several hostages in the hands of the jihadist group.
Six years have gone by since the night of his disappearance, filled with rumours about his death as well as sightings, never substantiated by concrete evidence, interspersed with long periods of oblivion and forgetfulness.
In recent months, some media reports have claimed that he was still alive, eventually petering out after a few days due to lack of evidence.
So far, the most credible information comes from a former IS fighter who said that Fr Dall'Oglio was tortured and murdered a few days after he was taken. Other sources have confirmed the claim, but even in this case there is no supporting evidence.
In recent days, on the eve of the sixth anniversary, the US Department of Justice has offered a reward of up to five million dollars for anyone who could provide useful information on his fate and that of four other men religious missing in Syria, namely Greek Orthodox priest Fr Maher Mahfouz, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Gregorios Ibrahim, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Armenian Catholic priest Fr Michael Kayyal.
For Mgr Audo, "The only certain thing is that there is no certain information. Even within Syria no one talks about him, at least directly. Over the past six years of war and violence many people have disappeared. As time goes by, the hope of finding him has faded a little. This is why it is important to talk and understand who is behind this violence.”