Mystery shrouds alleged release of two Orthodox bishops
- "Archbishop Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos al-Yaziji until last night were still in the
hands of their kidnappers. Reports of their release yesterday afternoon were
false." This is
according to Msgr. Jean-Clement
Jeanbart, Greek-Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, who emphasizes that the
negotiations with the kidnappers are in progress, pointing out that at the
moment "we know nothing" about their eventual release.
Reports have been circulating since yesterday about the alleged release of the two prelates. In the afternoon, all of the major news agencies and global networks had announced the release of the two bishops. The first to have leaked the news were journalists of Agence France Press (AFP), which quoted a statement by the Oeuvre d'Orient. They were followed by Reuters who also confirmed the release, citing Msgr. Tony Yaziji, bishop of the Greek orthodox church. Archbishop Jeanbart explains that "this news spread in Syria, resulting in great confusion." But for the moment there has been no official confirmation.
Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox bishop of the diocese of Aleppo and Boulos Yaziji, Greek orthodox Metropolitan of the diocese of the city, were abducted on the afternoon of April 22 in the village of Kafr Dael about 10 km from Aleppo. According to witnesses they 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 their kidnappers. On their return they ran into a roadblock set up by rebel militias, the car carrying the two bishops was surrounded by some armed men, perhaps Chechen jihadists, who opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver deacon and seizing the prelates.
The kidnapping of the two prelates has rocked the Syrian Christian community, Orthodox and Catholic. Yesterday, the pope said in the statement that he "follows the events with deep participation and intense prayer for the wellbeing and the release of the two abducted bishops."