05/03/2013, 00.00
SYRIA
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Aleppo bishop: Christians pained and worried by the fate of kidnapped prelates

The fate of Mgrs Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji remains unknown since they were abducted on 22 April, and still presumed to be in the hands of their kidnappers. People are praying so that "they will come back to their communities in the next few days to celebrate Orthodox Easter," said Archbishop Jeanbart.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - "All of Aleppo's Christian community is pained and concerned" about the fate of Mgrs Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, the two Orthodox bishops kidnapped on 22 April in the province of Aleppo on the border with Turkey," Greek Melkite bishop Mgr Jeanbart Jean Clement told AsiaNews.

"We have been encouraging our people, giving them hope," the prelate said, especially "since they are confused by conflicting reports about the fate of the two prelates." In fact, for Mgr Jeanbart, it is hard to fathom why they were abducted, especially after early reports about their release turned out to be false. More recently, fresh stories about their imminent liberation have left the prelate unsure whom to believe.

"Our hope is that they will come back to their communities in the next few days to celebrate Orthodox Easter," he said. "In all of our churches, Catholic and Orthodox, people are praying every day for their return and their deliverance. "

Like Pope Francis, Christian and Muslim religious leaders have reiterated their demand that the prelates be released.

Lebanon's Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai has urged the international community to work for the two bishops' release. Currently on a visit to Brazil, the Maronite religious leader said that crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria, and that "the two bishops have nothing to do with the Syrian crisis" and therefore "must be freed in the name of humanity."

On 27 April, even the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued a statement condemning the abduction of the two bishops.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Pan-Islamic body, called for their "immediate and unconditional release because such act contradicts the principles of true Islam, and the (high) status held for Christian clergymen in Islam."

On 10 May, the Greek Catholic community will hold a Byzantine Mass in Santa Maria Cosmedin Church in Rome, and pray for the release of Mgrs Ibrahim and Yaziji, as well as all the victims of kidnapping and for peace in Syria and the Middle East.

Archimandrite Mtanios Hadad BS Patriarchal Apocrisarius Gregory III Laham will lead the liturgical service. (S.C.)

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