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    » 12/30/2015, 00.00

    HOLY LAND – SYRIA

    Custos of the Holy Land: No contact about Fr Aziz, a Franciscan abducted just before Christmas



    Uncertain whether “he is still alive,” Fr Pizzaballa tells AsiaNews that he does not know who is behind the abduction. The clergyman went missing in an area “of heavy fighting,” where “Many groups are active” on their own, so “it is difficult to understand who did it”. Forgiveness and mercy are needed to save the region from a “spiral of hatred, resentment, and revenge”.

    Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Fr Dhiya Aziz was kidnapped on 23 December. Born in Iraq, the member of the Franciscan order served as pastor in Yacoubieh (Syria). Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, spoke to AsiaNews about his disappearance.

    “We realise that someone took him,” the clergyman said, “but we cannot say who did it or even if he is still alive. If we knew who abducted him, at least we would have confirmation, but until now, we do not know even that. We have tried some contacts, but there is not much more to say,” he added, cautious about not jeopardising the outcome.

    Father Aziz was born in Mosul, the ancient Nineveh, in Iraq, on 10 January 1974. After studying at the city’s Medical Institute, he embraced religious life.

    After his novitiate at Ain Karem, he made his first profession of religious vows on 1 April 2002. A year later, he moved to Egypt, where he remained for many years.

    In 2010, he came back to the Custody, which sent him to Amman. Subsequently, he was transferred to Syria, in Latakiyah.

    On his initiative, he decided to help the community of Yacoubieh, in the Orontes, Jisr al-Shughur District (Idlib province), a particularly dangerous place since it fell under the control of Jaish al-Fatah.

    A Jihadi group captured him in July of this year but he was able to get away. At first, the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, was suspected. However, the movement denied any involvement. In all likelihood, another jihadi group took him hoping for a large ransom.

    However, this time the situation appears to be different. "We know where he was taken,” said Fr Pizzaballa. “It is an area of ​​heavy fighting, on the border between government- and rebel-held territories.”

    “Many groups are active in that area,” he explained, “affiliated with various factions and without coordination among themselves, each on its own, so it is difficult to understand who did it."

    For now, the Custos of the Holy Land is placing his hopes in prayer to "have some information, that they (the kidnapers) might let us know."

    “This is the first time that we find ourselves in such an odd situation," the priest said. In the past, when Franciscans or others were abducted, "we always found a point of contact. This time, nothing! It is a very different situation than in July."

    Noting that Pope Francis proclaimed this as a Jubilee Year, Fr Pizzaballa said that the region "is in dire need of mercy."

    "It is clear to anyone who knows the region that it will be impossible to escape from such spiral of hatred, resentment, and revenge unless we have the courage to move on, forgive and be merciful. Otherwise, it is a vicious circle that will get worse."

    Since the start of the Syrian conflict, militia groups and Jihadi fighters have abducted several prominent Christian leaders, including two bishops, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna (taken on 22 April 2013), and Fr Jacques Mourad, a Syriac Catholic who has been held by the Islamic State group (Daesh) for the past five months. (DS)

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    See also

    17/12/2007 HOLY LAND
    Joint Israeli-Vatican commission makes no real progress
    Commission member Monsignor Vegliò and Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pizzaballa share this view. Both discuss the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, stressing the different situations they live depending on whether they live in Israel or the Palestinian Territories. Father Lombardi reiterates that “conditions for a papal visit [. . .] are not yet in place.”

    20/05/2016 19:33:00 HOLY LAND
    New Custos of the Holy Land’s challenge is to maintain dialogue

    Br Francesco Patton, of the Diocese of Trento, replaces Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, grateful for the latter’s 12 years of outstanding service. The new Custos welcomed the appointment "with trepidation” and “confidence." He plans to remain "a man of dialogue" and take care "of the friars and their life".



    15/10/2014 SYRIA - HOLY LAND
    Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo is optimistic about Fr Hanna, who continues his mission among Syrian Christians
    Mgr Georges Abou Khazen is in contact with the Franciscan friar who was kidnapped and released in the north of the country. The latter is free to visit his community but "cannot leave Syria" before meeting with local Muslim leader. The reasons for his abduction and for the meeting remain a mystery. For moderate Muslims, Christians "are a source of dialogue and reconciliation in an absurd war."

    06/07/2015 SYRIA – HOLY LAND
    For the Custody of the Holy Land, Nusra Front might be holding priest seized in Syria
    Fr Dhiya Azziz, a Franciscan born in Mosul, Iraq, is missing. No contacts have been possible with him since last Saturday. According to the Custody, “Some militants of an unknown armed brigade, perhaps connected with Jabhat al-Nusra,” took him. His name now goes on the list of missing clergymen, including two bishops and Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio.

    24/06/2016 13:47:00 ISRAEL-PALESTINE-HOLY LAND
    Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

    On the same day, the Holy See accepts the resignation of Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch, and appoints the former custodian of the Holy Land as apostolic administrator of the patriarchate. Facing new challenges, addressing the geopolitical and socio-religious changes taking place in the Middle East.

     





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