Thursday 8 December 2016

Belgian priest is stabbed by alleged asylum-seeker

James Rothwell

Published 02/08/2016 | 02:30

Father Jos Vanderlee, a 65-year-old priest in the north east Belgian town of Lanaken, was rushed to hospital with hand and tendon injuries. Photo: Cindy Aubree via AP
Father Jos Vanderlee, a 65-year-old priest in the north east Belgian town of Lanaken, was rushed to hospital with hand and tendon injuries. Photo: Cindy Aubree via AP

A priest was reportedly stabbed in his own home when he refused to give money to a man claiming to be an asylum-seeker who had asked to use his shower.

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Father Jos Vanderlee, a 65-year-old priest in the north east Belgian town of Lanaken, was rushed to hospital with hand and tendon injuries. He is expected to make a full recovery.

According to local paper 'Het Nieuwsblad', a man who said he was an asylum-seeker knocked on the vicar's door on Sunday and asked if he could use the shower.

Father Vanderlee agreed and let the man inside - but after showering, he is said to have demanded money from the priest.

When Father Vanderlee refused, the man allegedly stabbed him before fleeing the scene.

Belgian authorities said they are investigating, but denied the incident had links to terrorism.

Marino Keulen, the mayor of Lanaken, said: "Despite the fact that we are shocked, we must stress that this incident cannot be linked to terrorist acts at this stage of the investigation."

Initial reports said that the man was seeking asylum in the Netherlands but had strayed into Lanaken, which rests on the border.

It was also suggested that the man was merely pretending to be an asylum-seeker so he could gain access to the priest's house in order to steal from him.

It comes just six days after an elderly priest had his throat cut by Isil terrorists in the rural French town of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, in Normandy.

Adel Kermiche and Abdelmalik Petitjean, both aged 19, were shot dead by police as they fled from the church where they had killed Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel and had taken two nuns hostage.

They reportedly forced Father Hamel, pictured below, to kneel at his own altar before cutting his throat.

Muslims in several parts of France and Italy attended Catholic Masses on Sunday in a gesture of solidarity after the killing of Father Hamel.

The rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, who is also the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, attended a morning service in Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris on Sunday.

The Basilica of Saint-Denis, outside Paris, also gathered hundreds of Catholics but also a large number of Muslims and people of other confessions who showed up after religious authorities in France called on the population to express sympathy with the Catholic community.

"I'm very pleased that we invited Muslims. We also share their pain, the pain of all those who suffer, in every way," Danielle Ludon, a Catholic woman who attended Mass, told Reuters.

"The sentiments expressed were very, very strong. Some of them were very poignant," she said.

Among those who attended the service was a Muslim woman called Hayat, who came along with her children and husband.

"This was basically a message of unity, aside from peace, it was really about unity," she said.

Imams representing their Muslim communities also took part in Masses in many Italian cities and towns including Rome's Santa Maria in Trastevere and Milan's Santa Maria in Caravaggio.

"Thank you to all those Italians of Islamic religion who direct their communities along the path of courage against fundamentalism," Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter on Sunday.

Italy, like France, is stepping up supervision of mosques following a wave of attacks in France and Germany.

Irish Independent

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