Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 5, 2012

Kappes said to be safe


The Herald-Tribune

— The Rev. Christiaan Kappes, who served as St. Louis Catholic Church associate pastor from 2002-05, was reported as missing in Greece, but it appears he is now safe and scheduled to return to Indianapolis.

"The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was elated to learn from Father Christiaan Kappes' family that Father Kappes is alive and safe,” commented Archdiocesan communications director Greg Otolski, Indianapolis. “We are hopeful that he soon will be returning to the United States.

“We thank everyone for their prayers and support for Father Kappes and ask that people continue to pray for his safe return to Indiana. We also would like to thank the Vatican and all the authorities who have been searching for Father Kappes,” he added.

Based on recent posts on Facebook by family members, a coordinated effort by many people and agencies led to a happy ending ... at least that is the direction it seems to be headed.

Kappes had not been heard from since Monday, Oct. 1 when he contacted his father. Efforts to locate him intensified from that point.

The embassy in Athens was in contact with his family and also worked very closely with Greek authorities to try to locate him, according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Archdiocesan officials issued a statement Oct. 4 about the growing mystery. It explained that Kappes, a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, “has been in Athens the past three years at the request of the Vatican working on a doctorate degree.”

Otolski described Kappes, who grew up on Indy’s south side in Beech Grove, as “a faithful priest who's a smart guy. He’s a person who’s very intelligent with a lot of different interests, somebody who's a good athlete.” As a high school wrestler, he went to the state finals.

Now affiliated with St. Dionysius Catholic Cathedral, Athens, Kappes is participating in a pilot program set up by the Vatican and the government in Greece in which he and other Catholics will earn advanced degrees in Greek Orthodox theology, according to the archdiocesan Web site. Kappes said in a 2009 interview with The Criterion that he later hoped to assist in “an official commission between the Vatican and the Greek Orthodox Church to try to overcome a lot of the dissensions that historically have divided us.”

 

Posted October 5, 2012

Where in the world is the Rev. Christiaan Kappes, who served as St. Louis Catholic Church associate pastor from 2002-05?

“We can confirm that U.S. citizen Christiaan Kappes has been reported missing in Athens,”Greece, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said during an Oct. 4 daily press briefing in Washington, D.C., according to an online transcript.

She added department officials “have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. Our embassy in Athens is in contact with his family and is also working very closely with Greek authorities to try to locate him. As you know, in cases of missing Americans like this, U.S. consular officers check local hospitals, we check hotels, we check airports, we even work with local authorities to check prisons. So all of those things are ongoing, but we have not yet located him.”

When asked whether the priest was denied help while at the embassy there, Nuland admitted, “There’s a little bit of confusion  ... Mr. Kappes visited the embassy on Oct. 1. He did not, himself, request safe haven. While a consular officer was on the phone with one of his family members discussing options to ensure his safety, Mr. Kappes himself got up and departed the embassy, and we don’t know where he went.”

She did not speculate whether Kappes felt unsafe. “I can’t speak to the conversation that went down between the consular officer and Mr. Kappes.”

St. Louis Catholic Church always has a prayer service Saturday at 8 a.m., but on Oct. 6 attendees will be praying for his safety, said parish secretary Ellen Eckstein. “People are just very upset, worried.”

Archdiocesan officials issued a statement Oct. 4 about the growing mystery. It explained that Kappes, a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, “has been in Athens the past three years at the request of the Vatican working on a doctorate degree. We are concerned that Father Kappes’ family has not been able to contact him in recent days. The archdiocese also has not been able to locate him.”

Kappes called his sister, Nadia Charcap, Indianapolis, Sept. 30, and reported his friend and translator, Ioanna Lekakou, was tortured and beaten after being threatened by "thugs" to give up a $70,000 inheritance, according to a timeline of events on her Facebook page. “Chris learned through a political figure that they are now looking for him,” because inheritance documents showed he was a beneficiary and was supposed to donate the money to the Sisters of Charity there.

On Oct. 1, a priest dropped Kappes and Lekakou at the airport. Kappes phoned his dad and said, “If you don’t hear from me in 12-24 hours, then I have been murdered,” the Facebook posting stated. The duo were supposed to arrive in Indianapolis Oct. 3, but never did.

Embassy officials told the family they believe the pair left the airport, “but we don’t know if it was by force,” his sister said.

Archdiocesan communications director Greg Otolski, Indianapolis, told The Herald-Tribune Oct. 5, “It’s kind of frustrating not being able to do a whole lot since we're here and he's in Greece.” Archdiocesan leaders have nudged other agencies to try and locate the missing 36-year-old. “The archdiocese has been in contact with the Vatican's office in the United States and they are looking into the matter. U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar's office is also investigating.”

Otolski described Kappes, who grew up on Indy’s south side in Beech Grove, as “a faithful priest who's a smart guy. He’s a person who’s very intelligent with a lot of different interests, somebody who's a good athlete.” As a high school wrestler, he went to the state finals.

Now affiliated with St. Dionysius Catholic Cathedral, Athens, Kappes is participating in a pilot program set up by the Vatican and the government in Greece in which he and other Catholics will earn advanced degrees in Greek Orthodox theology, according to the archdiocesan Web site. Kappes said in a 2009 interview with The Criterion  that he later hoped to assist in “an official commission between the Vatican and the Greek Orthodox Church to try to overcome a lot of the dissensions that historically have divided us.”

The communications director reflected, "There are a lot of questions and really no answers. The only thing anybody knows for certain is that he’s missing. There's no evidence ... he’s been actually kidnapped or that he’s dead.”

Otolski is urging Hoosiers to “pray for his safety and quick return to the United States. We’re all hopeful there's going to be a good outcome and we’ll be seeing him back here in Indiana soon.”