The Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest held hostage in Lebanon by Islamic radicals for 18 months in the mid-1980s, died Friday of cancer. He was 61.
He had been undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic and lung cancer. He died at St. Domitilla Church in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, said Terry Anderson, a close friend who was held captive with him.
"He was my great friend and mentor and probably the nicest, sweetest and most holy man I've ever met," said Anderson, the former chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press. "I think if anybody is prepared to meet God in complete confidence, it should have been Marty Jenco."
Father Jenco was head of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut when members of the radical Islamic Jihad snatched him from a city street in January 1985. He was freed in July 1986 after months of negotiations involving the Reagan administration, Shiite radicals and Anglican envoy Terry Waite.
In 1995, Father Jenco wrote a book on his ordeal, Bound to Forgive _ the Pilgrimage to Reconciliation of a Beirut Hostage.
He described his months of captivity as boring, though for most of his time in captivity he shared a 12-by-15-foot room with three others.
Father Jenco wrote he held no animosity toward the Shiite Muslims who held him captive for 594 days. Instead, he said he wanted to return to Lebanon to visit the men who guarded him _ sometimes brutally, sometimes gently.
"I don't believe that forgetting is one of the signs of forgiveness. I forgive, but I remember," Father Jenco wrote. "I do not forget the pain, the loneliness, the ache, the terrible injustice."
While his faith never wavered, he admitted he told God, "I'm not Job, I want to go home now."