Apostolic vicar of Aleppo: happy for freed aid workers, still in the dark about kidnapped priests and bishops
Mgr Georges Abou Khazen hopes Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli can "overcome these difficult days." The prelate mentions that some Christian leaders and thousands of faithful are still in the hands of terrorist groups. He does not spare criticism of the West, "responsible" of the escalation of terror because it sells weapons and provides training.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - "I am happy for the release of the two kidnapped Italian aid workers. I hope they can overcome these difficult days, and resume their lives. At the same time, let us not forget the fate of the two kidnapped bishops, of Father Dall'Oglio and the other priests as well as the thousands of people who are in the hands of terrorist groups or criminal gangs in Syria," said Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, apostolic vicar of Aleppo of the Latins who spoke to AsiaNews about reports of the release of Italian aid workers Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli after more than five months in captivity.

The two young women arrived this morning at Rome's Ciampino airport, after a three-hour flight from Turkey.  "Tired" after their long ordeal, they have already undergone medical tests.

The Prosecutor's Office in Rome is expected to talk to them as early as today in accordance with existing protocol concerning abductions. For instance, Arab media have reported that a US$ 12 million ransom was paid for their release but did not cite sources.

Meanwhile the clash among opposing Islamic terrorist factions active in Syria and Iraq is being played out on social media.

A Twitter account associated with the State Islamic accused the "dogs" of the al Nusra Front of having freed the "Italian women crusaders" and killed "sympathisers of the Islamic state."

Here too Greta and Vanessa is attributed to the exchange of money and "Muslim women detained in Italy".

Speaking to AsiaNews, the apostolic vicar of Aleppo - where the two young women were abducted - said that "the situation has not changed. There is no security and everyday life is becoming increasingly difficult for people. We have electricity only for an hour and a half a day. There is no diesel fuel. Sometimes, there is no food and water, and now it is also very cold."

Turning to the fate of Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit clergyman kidnapped in Syria on 29 July 2013, and that of the two bishops - Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi (Orthodox Church of Antioch) and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim (Syrian Orthodox Church) taken in April 2013 - and of other priests, he explained that "unfortunately we know nothing. Every time a report comes in, it is quickly contradicted. We have no contact or channels [of communication]. We are in total darkness."

Mgr Georges Abou Khazen stressed that "even the West," after the Paris attacks, "is beginning to feel the weight and the violence of these people". However, he also blamed Western governments for contributing to this escalation of terror.

"Arms sales must stop," he explained. "Training these people must stop. There are no differences among these groups. There are no opponents and terrorists. There are no moderates and fundamentalists."

"We need to stop arming and training these people," he insisted. "How can they be considered criminals in one country and freedom fighters in another."

Finally, the apostolic vicar of Aleppo said he hoped to see the defeat of "this logic that praises fanaticism," as well as the end to a war "that should not be fought with weapons, but also by other means, like education and schools."

"Most of all," in his view, "we must focus on dialogue with moderate imams and religious leaders, not with those financed from outside who promote the logic of violence and terror." (DS)