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Authorities searching for priest who disappeared en route to Holy Land

January 9, 1997

PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ An international search is under way for a popular cleric dubbed ``The Hugging Priest″ who disappeared en route to the Holy Land.

The Rev. James Quinn, an associate pastor at St. Ann’s Church in Browns Mills, vanished on Dec. 30 after arriving in Zurich on a flight from New York.

Quinn, 66, never made it to Israel for a two-week visit. He was reported missing Jan. 5 to Pemberton Township police.

Police Sgt. Stephen Emery said Swiss Air officials confirmed that Quinn was on Flight 332 and that his luggage arrived in Zurich. The disappearance has baffled authorities here and abroad. Emery said authorities here have enlisted assistance from the Interpol international police agency, which is investigating in Europe and checking hospitals in the Zurich area.

``A man of his age isn’t going to do anything radical,″ said Earl Johnson, a parishioner who drove Quinn to the airport.

Quinn would have been reunited with friends from his seminary days during the Israel tour, scheduled to last until Jan. 12.

Parishioners at St. Ann’s dubbed Quinn ``The Hugging Priest,″ because of his habit of embracing them as they departed services. News of his disappearance swept through the parish.

``I’m very distraught,″ said Craig Estill, a 26-year-old parishioner. ``We’re like his second family.″

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