Country priest's kidnap ordeal

A man who assaulted and abducted an elderly priest was a low-life and a coward, police said.

The Herald Sun reports that Fr John Leahy, 70, described by his colleagues as a gentle and loving man, suffered a broken shoulder in the attack in which cash and valuables were stolen.

Fr Leahy, who told a fellow priest his attacker had a "death wish", tried to jump from his car several times, but was thwarted when his abductor sped up.

The worst night of Fr Leahy's life began when he answered a knock at the door of the presbytery at St Mary's Catholic Church, Mooroopna, in central Victoria, about 8.30pm on Sunday.

He was confronted by two men asking for somewhere to stay the night.

Supt Fred Johansen, of Shepparton police, said one of the men edged his way inside the presbytery and violently pushed Fr Leahy to the floor. The fall broke the priest's shoulder.

As the other intruder fled, the attacker frogmarched Fr Leahy inside and forced the priest to open a safe. After scooping up cash and valuables, the attacker bustled Fr Leahy into the priest's car at knifepoint and drove away.

Fr Leahy endured a painful and frightening journey through Mooroopna and Shepparton for about an hour. The attacker fled near Mooroopna Golf Course, leaving Fr Leahy alone in the car.

"The offender was aggressive. The priest was threatened (in the car) with further assault," Supt Johansen said.

"I would describe the sort of person who could do this as a low-life. It is despicable behaviour to attack an elderly man, be it a priest or any other elderly man," he said.

Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, of St Brendan's Church in Shepparton, said Fr Leahy had been traumatised. "It was rough treatment, that was a real shock for him," he said. "He was conscious of damage being done."

"He is in the care of friends," Monsignor Jeffrey told ABC Goulburn Murray. "He is very much a community man, he has been a priest in the area for about 35 years. People have been assuring him of their prayers. Well-wishers have been dropping into the presbytery."

Fr Leahy did not know the offender, who claimed to have come down from Queensland.

Elderly priest robbed, assaulted, abducted (Herald-Sun 11/4/06)
ABC Goulburn Murray

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Sandhurst - Parishes

Thief kidnaps country priest (The Age 11/4/06)
Search for priest's kidnapper under way (ABC News 10/4/06)
Priest in shock after abduction (The Australian 11/4/06)

11 Apr 2006