Syria’s Catholic leaders made a call for all Christians abducted during the conflict in the country to be set free.
Prompted by the release of kidnapped nuns from Maloula, Syria’s Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs issued the plea during a March 12 meeting in Rabweh, Lebanon.
A statement from the body—which is comprised of bishops from the Roman Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Melkite and Syriac Catholic Churches—called for action for all those abducted during the Syrian conflict.
Speaking immediately after the release of the statement, the head of the assembly, Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the release of the sisters offers hope for other kidnapped Christians, including Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo Yohanna Ibrahim, who was kidnapped April 22, 2013.
The patriarch said: “We are keen to also see the same concern for the two bishops, the Syrian Orthodox and the Greek Orthodox, as well as the priests and many, many other people [who have been] kidnapped, especially those who have nobody to care for them.”
The bishops’ concern particularly extended to lay people who had been seized for ransom. “This initiative [to free the nuns] can be a start to have some strategy how to to release other people, not only bishops and priests but also the very poor people, who have no support, no relations to help them.”
He added: “We hope that this wonderful initiative can be followed by other initiatives and we are happy that it was collaboration between Lebanon, Syria and Qatar [who worked together to secure the release of the nuns], with the countries able to deal [with the release] despite the huge price” in ransom money.
Asked if he feared high prices paid to kidnappers would encourage further abductions, Damascus based Patriarch Gregorios acknowledged that Christians are seen as a source of income by kidnappers. “Sometimes as they were kidnapped, Christians would tell thir captors that they had no money, but were told, ‘go to your bishop, he will pay.’ We have heard this from the beginning.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.www.churchinneed.org (USA);www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)