VATICAN CITY (RNS) A prominent Italian Jesuit who is an outspoken supporter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went missing in Syria Monday (July 29), fueling speculation that he has been kidnapped by an Islamist group.

The Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, 58, lived for three decades in Syria, where he established an ecumenical community at Mar Musa on the site of an early Christian monastery, engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and forging close ties with the local population.

He was expelled in 2012 by the Assad government for his support of the rebels.

The Reuters news agency reported late on Monday that Dall’Oglio was abducted in the eastern city of Raqqa by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida.

But according to a close friend and collaborator of Dall’Oglio in Rome, the priest could have gone off the grid as he tried to secure the release of one or more hostages kidnapped by the Islamist group.

He had traveled to rebel-controlled areas of Syria several times in recent months.

The friend, who who asked to be quoted by his first name Riccardo because he is a Syrian national and has relatives and friends in Syria, said he received his last email from Dall’Oglio on July 26.

“Tomorrow, that is in two hours, I will leave from here and enter Syria for a difficult mediation … pray for me,” the priest wrote from Gaziantep, Turkey.

On Wednesday, both the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vatican couldn’t confirm that Dall’Oglio had been kidnapped, saying that the situation is unclear and that no firm leads have been established yet.

The Vatican ambassador to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, told the AsiaNews news agency that he was “surprised” by the kidnapping reports. “He is well known there and he is quite respected in the rebel areas,” he said.

Dall’Oglio’s story highlights the difficult situation of Syria’s Christian minority, caught in the three-year-old conflict between the Sunni-led uprising and the regime of Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith with links to Shiite Islam.

Some Christians, though initially supportive of the rebellion, have increasingly become targets of Islamist groups in recent months, as the fighting intensified and the conflict became more polarized along sectarian and religious lines.

Most of Syria’s Christian leaders have taken a more cautious stance and have voiced support for the Assad regime. As an outspoken supporter of the uprising, Dall’Oglio stood out.

At a Mass in Rome with fellow Jesuits on Wednesday, Pope Francis voiced concern for Dall’Oglio’s fate, and linked him to other Jesuits who have suffered “insults, contempt and poverty” for their mission.

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  • God Is Our Refuge

    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (from Psalm 46) (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • Prayer For Peace Amidst The Storm

    Living God, our refuge and strength, even the wind and sea obey your voice. Put the wind back in its place, and say to the sea: Peace! Be still! Fill us with great faith, and save us from the surging water, so that we may tell the good news of your saving love; through Jesus Christ, our hope in the storm. (based on Mark 4) (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • Words of Assurance

    Now thus says the LORD, your Creator: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters. (from Isaiah 43) (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • A Prayer For Rescue, Recovery and Relief Workers

    God our help and hope when waters rise, you brought Israel safely through the sea. Sustain all those who seek to save others, so that they may repair the ruined cities, raise up the former devastations, and be the restorers of streets to live in; through Jesus Christ, our eternal savior. (based on Isaiah 58, 61) (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • Prayer In Times of Trouble

    God of wind and water, stillness and storm, your Spirit sweeps over the surface of the sea. Give us faith to seek you in times of trouble. Reach out your hand to us when we are sinking so that we may believe and worship you; through Jesus Christ, Sovereign and Savior. (based on Matthew 14:22-33) (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • Prayer in a Time of Disaster

    Holy One, you are our comfort and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos. Surround us now with your grace and peace through storm or earthquake, fire or flood. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer. (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • A Prayer in a Time of Distress

    Almighty and everlasting God, You are strength to those who suffer and comfort to those who grieve. Let the prayers of your children who are in trouble rise to you. Hear our prayer. We claim your promises of wholeness as we pray for those who are ill or are suffering loss and long for your healing touch. Hear our prayer. Make the weak strong, the sick healthy, the broken whole, and confirm those who serve them as agents of your love. Hear our prayer. To everyone in distress, grant mercy, grant relief, grant refreshment. Hear our prayer. As we begin to rebuild, we commend our neighborhoods to your care. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create a community where your will may be done. Hear our prayer. God of compassion, you watch our ways, And weave out of terrible happenings wonders of goodness and grace. Hear our prayer. Surround those who have been shaken by tragedy with a sense of your present love, And hold them in faith. Though they are lost in grief, may they find you and be comforted; Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives and rules this world with you. Amen. (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • A Prayer When the Waters are Rising

    Lord, all around us the waters are rising. I feel so helpless, for I cannot stop the rain from falling or the waters from rising. I feel so powerless, for the current is strong and my body is tired. I feel so empty, for our possessions are floating away or anchored in the muddy water. Lord, all around us the waters are rising. Grant me your strength, since mine is somewhere downstream. Grant me your patience, since mine is drowning. Grant me your perspective, since my loss is in replaceable things, not irreplaceable grace. Give me eyes to see how precious your gifts are: family and friends, faith and mercy. And Lord, when the waters rise around me in my spirit, and my faith and hope are swept downstream, help me to remember how you got me through this flood. In Your Son's name. Amen. (via <a href="">Presbyterian Mission Agency</a>)

  • A Buddhist Meditation

    Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces! When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows! Through harm caused by spirits we discover Dharma And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons! Through people's hate we discover Dharma And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us! Through cruel adversity, we discover Dharma And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity! Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on! We dedicate our merit to you all, to repay your kindness. -- Gyalwa Longchenpa via <a href="">Beliefnet</a>

  • A Muslim Prayer

    "Definitely we are from Allah and to Him is our return. O Allah, grant reward in my calamity and grant in its place a good substitute".

  • A Muslim Prayer

    "O Allah, let it rain around us and not on us. O Allah, let it rain on the peaks and mountains and the rivers and at the forests". (Tirmidhi, Bukhari, Muslim)

  • A Muslim Prayer

    "O Allah, let it be a mercy and not a punishment. O Allah make it a beneficial and not a destructive wind."

  • A Jewish Prayer

    Adonai, bless me with courage Help me gain strength from You Life has a way of handing us surprises That take an amazing amount of courage to overcome Create in me a clear and steady focus A heart that is filled with the awareness that Adonai is with me On the sunniest day and in the darkest night I will be whatever life demands of me Courage is my knowledge of You. -- Anita Rosenberg, from WRJ's Covenant of the Soul (via <a href="">Union for Reform Judaism</a>)

  • A Baha'i Prayer

    O God! We are weak; give us strength. We are poor; bestow upon us Thine illimitable treasures. We are sick; grant unto us Thy divine healing. We are impotent; give us Thy heavenly power. O Lord! Make us useful in this world; free us from the condition of self and desire. O Lord! Make us brethren in Thy love, and cause us to be loving toward all Thy children. Confirm us in service to the world of humanity so that we may become the servants of Thy servants, that we may love all Thy creatures and become compassionate to all Thy people. O Lord, Thou art the Almighty. Thou art the Merciful. Thou art the Forgiver. Thou art the Omnipotent. -- `Abdu'l-Bahá (via <a href="">Squidoo</a>)