An Italian Jesuit priest has been abducted in Syria by Islamists with links to al-Qaeda, Reuters has reported.

Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio was reportedly kidnapped on Monday (July 29) in the rebel-held eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, which, Reuters says, has fallen under the control of militant Islamists.

However, the Vatican has yet to confirm the news.

Dall’Oglio had worked in Syria for over 30 years, “promoting Islamic-Christian harmony-building” (his  words). But he was expelled last year after speaking out against President Bashar al-Assad and helping victims of the civil war. Since then, he has been working predominantly in Europe.

On 22 July he posted an online petition to the Pope, whom he implored to advocate on behalf of suffering Syrians.

However, his stance has been controversial for many Syrian Christian leaders. Nadim Nassar, the only Syrian Anglican priest, told World Watch Monitor: “Any attempt to politicise the voice of Christians in Syria is wrong, and devastating for them, because it weakens them”.