12/11/2006, 00.00
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Rector of Baghdad’s major seminary released

Fr Samy Al Raiys was released yesterday morning. No more details are available yet. Concern is growing about conditions facing Christians in the capital.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Fr Samy Al Raiys (photo), rector of the major seminary of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad, has been released after six days in captivity. The news about his release was published on the official internet site of the Patriarchate. Little more is known so far, but sources from Baghdad close to the Chaldean community said the priest was fine.

Fr Samy had not been seen since he was kidnapped on the morning of 4 December near his home. Two days later, he was due to take part in the inauguration of the new academic year of the “Simon Peter” seminary, whose lectures had been suspended since last summer for security reasons.

The Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, Emmanuel III Delly, had launched an “urgent appeal” for the priest’s release, in which he called for “charity and brotherhood”. In the text, the highest-ranking leader of the Chaldeans explained how priests in Iraq “do not deal in politics but share the pain of the people who suffer, their task is to pray and to serve souls, and God is their strength and their rock.”

Fr Samy and his car were seized by unknown men as he was on his way to his parish of Mar Khorkhis (St George) in Baghdad Jadida (New Baghdad), in the east of the capital. The major seminary and Babel College (Faculty of Theology) have transferred there from Dora neighbourhood that was judged to be too volatile. Many Christians have also moved there although many do not know for how long. Online forums of the Iraqi diaspora in fact claim that “Jadida is becoming the new Dora”. Local sources of AsiaNews confirm that violence and threats levelled at Christians have intensified in the area. 

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