Italian Jesuit Expelled from Syria Says Country Needs Regime Change
Tags: Jesuit, Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, Syria
Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio was expelled from Syria in mid-June after he intensified his public calls for democratic change in the country.
“The blood on the ground must be respected and religious leaders must speak out,” Fr. Dall’Oglio said on July 18.
The Jesuit had been based in Syria for 30 years, and since 1982 had been restoring an ancient monastery in the desert and forming a religious community dedicated to Christian-Muslim dialogue and harmony.
Fr. Dall’Oglio is now back in Italy and despite the violence in Syria, the Mar Musa monastery continues to operate “normally—or as normal as possible in Syria today,” he said.
Fr. Dall’Oglio said the government initially asked the local bishop to send him home last November, but public support put the move on hold. Then, in late May, the rising violence made him feel he had no choice but to speak out in a more prominent way. He published an open letter to Kofi Annan, the U.N. envoy to Syria, saying a regime change in the country was necessary in order to restore peace and bring democracy.
The letter, he said, “was the immediate reason I was expelled.”
Fr. Dall’Oglio said Catholic and Orthodox bishops “were very active supporters of the government, but started speaking less after the first six months of the revolt” when it was clear Assad was losing popular support and his troops were seen as reacting with too much deadly force.
The bishops’ initial position was understandable, he said.
“They are very much afraid” of a Syrian repeat of what happened in Iraq, where the end of a dictatorship launched power struggles and many Christian communities were caught in the middle, according to Fr. Dall’Oglio.
With his visit to Lebanon planned for September, Pope Benedict XVI will have a perfect occasion and a very public stage for urging resistance to fanaticism, violence and interreligious tensions, Fr. Dall’Oglio said. [Catholic News Service]