Muslims Urged to Help End Hostage Siege in Moscow

Catholic and Orthodox Leaders Offer Prayers

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MOSCOW, OCT. 25, 2002 ( The Orthodox and Catholic prelates of Moscow condemned the kidnapping of over 600 people by Chechen gunmen, and called on Muslim leaders to help end the crisis.

«Innocent people of various nationalities, religious confessions, citizens of Russia and foreigners, who were being peacefully entertained in the Palace of Culture, have become the object of terrorist action,» said Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the president of the Russian Catholic bishops’ conference.

«In such a delicate and dangerous situation, the Catholic Church in Russia prays for a peaceful and rapid release of the hostages,» he added.

The Chechen rebels had threatened to begin killing their hostages at dawn Saturday. But later they promised to free the captives if Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an end to the war in Chechnya and began pulling out troops, the Associated Press reported.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said: «We appeal to the state authorities, to the international community, to religious leaders, in particular to the Muslim clergy, and to public personalities: Find a way out of this tragedy with the greatest responsibility, with dialogue, negotiation, without using force or causing a bloodbath.»

«True religion is always an invitation to peace and reciprocal love, and people of different nationalities can live as brothers and sisters,» the archbishop added.

For his part, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, «filled with anxiety,» assured his prayers for the hostages, for their safe return home.

«I ask the Islamic leaders both in Russia and the world to exert influence on the conscience of these people and urge them not to kill innocent people,» the Moscow patriarch said in a statement.

«In this utterly complex situation, I call upon our state authorities to act with responsibility and wisdom, to act in such a way that human lives could be saved, and most importantly, that this may never be repeated in our city and in all Russia,» the patriarchal document stressed.

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