ROME — A Franciscan priest was among about 20 Christians kidnapped from a Syrian village near the border with Turkey the night of Oct. 5-6, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said.
Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf and the others were abducted from Knayeh, a small Christian village in northwestern Syria, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land confirmed Oct. 7.
Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, who heads the apostolic vicariate of Aleppo, Syria, told Fides, news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, that among those kidnapped were young people, including boys and girls.
Brigades linked to the Al-Nusra front, a branch of al-Qaida operating in Syria, are believed to be behind the abductions, the church agencies said.
A statement from the Latin Patriarchate said there had been no contact with the priest or his captors and that Franciscan nuns who were in a convent in the village took refuge in neighboring homes.
Father Jallouf was one of two priests living in the village of 700 Catholic families.
Franciscan priests have been present in the village and the surrounding valley of Orontes for more than a century, the Latin Patriarchate said. Before Syria’s civil war began in 2011, the Franciscan community operated a youth center, kindergarten and health clinic in the village.
The kidnappings come as fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian army increased in northern sections of the country in early October.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Rome said Franciscan Sister Patrizia Guarino, 80, was among those who fled the convent and was staying with a family in Knayeh, according to the ANSA news agency Oct. 7.