Resplendent in black cassock and matching skullcap, the bearded Jesuit appears in a YouTube video breaking bread with opposition activists and donating blood at a makeshift rebel clinic, highlighting his solidarity with the Syrian rebellion.
But Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a brawny bear of a man who enunciates each word with a theatrical sense of certitude, scoffs at the “jihad priest” label. He says he remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in his adopted homeland — a “jihad of the spirit, not a jihad of arms,” as he declared during a recent stay in the rebel-occupied Syrian town of Qusair.
Still, the Italian-born priest warns: “If nonviolence becomes another name for a lack of responsibility, then I am not with nonviolence anymore. I am with the right to defend people.”