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» 04/26/2013
SYRIA - VATICAN
No sign of Orthodox bishops' release, fears of political blackmail grow
by Elias Khoury
Sources tell AsiaNews they will believe in the release when they can see and talk to the two bishops. Delay is a sign that something went wrong. So far, Christians have not taken sides with either warring party. The pope calls for a political solution to the crisis. Western governments seek to arm the opposition. Accusations of nerve gas use could lead to US military intervention.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - There is no sign that two Orthodox bishops kidnapped four days ago near Aleppo have been released, this despite numerous reports about their liberation. "Nothing; there is nothing; only unreliable reports," a source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews. "We can talk about their release only when the two bishops are in front of us and can talk to us."

Mgr Yohanna Ibrahim, bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Diocese of Aleppo, and Mgr Boulos Yaziji, archbishop of the Greek Orthodox diocese of the same city, were abducted on Monday in Kafr Dael, 10 km from Aleppo, on the Turkish border. Their driver, a Syriac Orthodox deacon, was killed.

According to information from the Orthodox Church, the two prelates were negotiating the release of two priests, Fr Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Fr Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), seized in February and still in the hands of kidnappers, even though a ransom was paid for their release.

Damascus pinned the kidnapping of two bishops on "terrorist groups". Some sources have blamed Chechen jihadists for the abduction. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main armed opposition force, accused instead Syrian troops.

What the case, what is certain is that the two bishops were kidnapped in a rebel-held area and that opposition officials said they would do what they could to ensure their release. "However, the release is taking its time," the source told AsiaNews, "and this is worrisome."

As time goes by, fears are growing that something went wrong. "The more time goes by, the worse it gets," the source said.

Some fear that the abduction might be a way to force the Church and Christians to take sides. So far, only the United Nations and the Vatican continue to call for political talks as the only way to end the civil war.

On Wednesday, as he mentioned the two kidnapped bishops, Pope Francis called "for an end to the bloodshed," for the delivery of "necessary humanitarian assistance to the population" and for a quick "political solution to the crisis."

In a public statement, the Syriac and Greek Orthodox patriarchates of Antioch, to which the two kidnapped bishops belong, stressed that the two prelates are "messengers of peace", as demonstrated by their "religious, social and national work."

On this basis, the patriarchates called on all Churches in the world to reject "all kinds of violence hitting the human beings living in the East."

Similarly, they called on "our partners in citizenship, from all Islamic confessions, to stand hand in hand and work on refusing the misuse of man and deal with him as a product, a shield in the battles or a means for monetary or political bribery."

The abduction of the two bishops comes at a time when Western governments are increasingly convinced that Syrian rebels must be armed and the Central Intelligence Agency is certain that the Assad regime used nerve gas, a conclusion that could push the United States towards military intervention in Syria.


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See also
12/19/2013 SYRIA
As negotiations for the release of the Maaloula nuns continue, Homs bishop makes an appeal
04/23/2013 SYRIA
Pope praying for the release of Mgrs Ibrahim and Boulos al-Yaziji
05/03/2013 SYRIA
Aleppo bishop: Christians pained and worried by the fate of kidnapped prelates
04/25/2013 SYRIA
The two bishops of Aleppo still in kidnappers hands. The "dictatorship of the false information"
01/05/2006 LEBANON – SYRIA
Khaddam's statements prove Syria's policies vis-à-vis Lebanon were wrong, say Maronite bishops
by Youssef Hourany

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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