The Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi (left) and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (right)
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.
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
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.