Today Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi released this statement on behalf of Pope Francis, in response to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria:
The kidnapping of the two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver whilst they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and the Christian communities in Syria are living. The Holy Father has been informed of this recent, extremely grave act, which comes on top of the increasing violence of the past days and a humanitarian emergency of enormous proportions. Pope Francis is following the events with deep participation and he is praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops. He is also praying so that, with the support and prayers of all, the Syrian people may finally see tangible responses to the humanitarian drama and real hopes of peace and reconciliation rise on the horizon.
From the Reuters report on the kidnapping:
Two prominent Syrian bishops, who had warned of the threat to religious tolerance and diversity from the two-year conflict in their country, were kidnapped on Monday by armed rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said.
SANA news agency said the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were seized by “a terrorist group” in the village of Kfar Dael as they were “carrying out humanitarian work”.
A Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey.
UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the two bishops have been freed, but that their abductors’ identities remain a mystery.
UPDATE #2: While the AP is now also reporting that the bishops have been freed, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is maintaining that the reports are false and that the bishops have not, in fact, been released.