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
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.
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
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.