BY SCO Admin | April 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Orthodox archbishops kidnapped in Syria, Christians appeal for help

Two Syrian archbishops were kidnapped at gunpoint yesterday as the two-year-old civil war in the country escalates and Christian leaders in the region appeal for help.

Both the Syrian government and rebel groups blamed each other for the abduction of the two clerics, the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim (above), and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi. Local reports suggest the archbishops’ vehicle was waylaid in the countryside outside the town of Aleppo by armed men who shot their driver.

Several prominent Muslim religious leaders have been persecuted or killed since the Syrian conflict began, including the highest-ranking Sunni imam in the country in a bombing of his Damascus mosque last month. Until now, however, the fighting had largely bypassed the clerical hierarchy of Syria’s Christian minority. The men are the most senior Church leaders caught up in the conflict, which has killed more than 70,000 people across Syria.

Archbishop Ibrahim had been supportive of President Bashar Assad and had urged his followers not to abandon Syria, but he had recently turned critical of the government.

Archbishop Yazigi is not known to be politically outspoken.

This week, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, has made the latest emergency appeal for help to support Syrian families.

Last week Patriarch Gregory III Laham, Syria’s most senior Catholic leader, personally asked the Pope Francis for the the Vatican to get more involved in bringing peace to Syria. The men met at the Vatican last Wednesday.


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