Pope Grateful for Iraqi Archbishop's Release

Syrian-Catholic Prelate Unharmed

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See expressed John Paul II’s “great satisfaction” over the release of Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, who had been briefly held hostage by gunmen in Iraq.

The Pope’s sentiments were published today in a statement by Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, shortly after Iraqi Catholic sources reported news of the Syrian-Catholic archbishop’s release.

“The Holy Father was informed immediately and he thanked God for the happy outcome of this vicissitude,” said Navarro Valls.

The archbishop was kidnapped Monday in Mosul, in the northern part of Iraq. One news agency earlier reported the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $200,000.

“No ransom was paid,” Navarro Valls added. “The kidnapping had caused great surprise, as the archbishop is much loved both by Christians as well as Muslims.”

Archbishop Casmoussa, 66, has been the leader of the Syrian-Catholic archdiocese of Mosul since 1999. The archdiocese has some 35,000 faithful.

The Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly, thanked God for the prelate’s liberation and said: “It was not an attack against Christians.”

In statements to the Missionary Service News Agency, he added: “We don’t know who the author of the kidnapping is, as, indeed, we don’t know who the people are who were responsible for the kidnapping of a Chaldean priest a few days ago, detained for 24 hours by armed men and then released.”

“The real problem is that Iraq is in chaos,” the patriarch said. He appealed to faithful worldwide to pray for “peace in our martyred country.”

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