01/18/2005, 00.00
iraq - vatican
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Monsignor Casmoussa freed

The Pope welcomed the news "with great satisfaction". Patriarch of Baghdad: "Christians and Muslims are thrilled by his release".

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Iraqi Syrian-Catholic bishop, Monsignor Basile Geogres Casmoussa, has been freed.  Msgr Thomas Habib, secretary of the Nunciature in Baghdad, told AsiaNews that he has spoken to the bishop, who is in good shape. Informed of the news, the Pope thanked God for the happy outcome of the incident.

"Half an hour ago, at 11:30 a.m. Rome time, I spoke to Msgr Casmoussa himself," Msgr Habib said, "and he confirmed that he's well and is currently at home."  "We didn't talk about the 'who' and 'why' of the kidnapping" the Secretary went on to say. "In any case, I can confirm that no ransom was paid."  Earlier, there had been a rumour that kidnappers had demanded 200,000 dollars to free the bishop.

Msgr Habib, an Egyption national in Iraq since August 2004, said that rumours of a ransom had begun to spread shortly after the news of the kidnapping, "but today the Bishop was unconditionally released," he specified.

AsiaNews also gathered positive comments on Msgr Casmoussa's release from Chaldean Catholic patriarch Monsignor Emmanuel Delly, who confirmed that "the bishop is free, is in good health and is at home."  Asked about a ransom payment, the Patriarch said that he was not aware of one.  "Christians and Muslim of Iraq," he added, "are thrilled for his release and thanked God together for the good news."

The Holy See's spokesman, Navarro Valls, stated that "the kidnapping had come as a great surprise since the Archbishop is very much admired by both Christians and Muslims". He also added that "no ransom was paid" for Msgr Casmoussa's release.
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