04/23/2019, 13.42
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Bishop Audo: Easter prayer in Aleppo in memory of bishops missing six years

There is no news of the Syro-Orthodox Msgr.  Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Msgr.  Boulos Yaziji.  For the prelate "there are no certain signs of their presence" or "communication channels in place".  He launches an appeal to the West: to support peace in Syria and the Christian presence in the country.  The memory of the Federation of Arameis (Syriacs) in Switzerland.


Aleppo (AsiaNews) - At Easter the Christian community of Aleppo recalled "with prayer" Msgr.  Yohanna Ibrahim and Msgr.  Boulos Yaziji, the two bishops kidnapped in April 2013 whose fate is shrouded in mystery.  

Speakint to AsiaNews Msgr.  Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo and former president of Caritas Syria, confirms that "six years after their abduction, there are no certain signs of their presence and there are no communication channels in place" with the group that took them.

On Palm Sunday, the prelate points out, the Greek Orthodox patriarch Yohanna X Yaziji (brother of one of the two bishops) "came to Aleppo to pray, as a sign of solidarity of the Church and of the whole Christian community" of the city.  Moreover, he adds, "yesterday afternoon the Syro-Orthodox also promoted a moment of particular prayer for the two bishops".

"Every now and then - says Msgr.  Audo - someone remembers them in prayer, but there are no official positions and the impression is that this is a forgotten story.  There are no signs of presence, we have no elements that favor communication and absolute silence reigns over their fate.  We continue to pray to keep hope alive, also because the faithful feel the urgent need for two pastors to return to take care of the local community".

Since 22 April 2013 there have been no reports of the two prelates, whose fate remains shrouded in mystery.  An "abnormal" abduction, which was not followed by claims of respinsability or negotiations for their release.  Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syro-Orthodox diocese of Aleppo and Msgr.  Boulos Yaziji, archbishop of the Greek Orthodox diocese of the city, was kidnapped shortly before 6 pm in the town of Kafr Dael, about 10 km from Aleppo.

According to witnesses, the two prelates were negotiating the release of two priests, Fr.  Michel Kayyal and Fr.  Maher Mahfouz, seized in February of that year.  Arriving at a checkpoint, the car with the two bishops was surrounded by armed men, perhaps Chechen jihadists, who shot and killed the deacon driver.  Evidence suggests that the group consisted of foreigners who did not speak Arabic.  However, silence fell on the affair, no group claimed responsibility and to date it is not known whether the two bishops are still alive.

The Federation of Arameans (Syriacs) in Switzerland also spoke out to raise awareness about the fate of the two religious: "Christians are still upset and no longer tolerate the media silence".  

For decades they made great efforts "in the ecumenical dialogue between the various Christian churches and the leaders of Islam in the Middle East, in particular with government institutions".  The kidnapping, the document concludes, has therefore hastened the mass exodus of many Christians who fled from Aleppo and its surroundings.

"In this story - remembers Msgr.  Audo - there are no traces or claims and it is not possible to make plausible hypotheses.  There are many hypotheses on the ground, but nothing concrete and it is necessary to reflect to arrive at a solution ”.  Certainly the violence against the Christians of East and West (for example  the mystery about the fate of the Italian missionary, Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio) and the war in Syria "have led to a massive exodus, which has impoverished the Christian presence in the region".

"Christians - says Msgr.  Audo -  have lost a lot in these years, although as a Church we are doing everything to stay alive and keep the flame of hope alive.  We want to be witnesses, with courage, facing a great challenge.  And the recent celebrations of Easter are an example, thanks to the large participation of the faithful, who crowded the places of worship and prayers for stability and the end of the conflict ".  

"To the Christians of the West - he concludes - I want to launch an appeal: support peace in Syria and the Christian presence, which is essential for the entire Middle East, for the Arab world and for the universal Church itself".

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