Bishops kidnapped in Syria reported to be alive

Two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria by rebel forces in April are alive, and the head of the Lebanese secret services says negotiations are under way for their release, according to media reports.

The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Hassoun Badreddin — the spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, said the bishops are now being held in Turkey, according to a Russian news agency.

He said that the abduction of the two prelates — Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi, both of Aleppo — was staged by Chechen militants and their Turkish confederates.

Previous reports of the kidnapping said the bishops were taken by Syrian rebels.

According to the Grand Mufti, the kidnapping may be linked to Ankara’s request to transfer the seat of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Antioch from Syria to Turkey.

A similar report came from a Middle East news agency, which claimed that Turkish intelligence services had seen the bishops alive where they are being held, near the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border.

A Lebanese televison station reported the head of Lebanon’s secret services, General Abbas Ibrahim, as saying negotiations are under way for the release of the bishops.

A Vatican Insider report said this statement was probably in response to widespread discontent among Lebanese Christians, who had hoped to see the two prelates included in an agreement which led to the release of nine Shiite pilgrims who disappeared in Syria in May 2012.

General Ibrahim negotiated an exchange of prisoners with Qatar’s foreign affairs minister. The agreement ensured the release of two Turkish pilots who were abducted by Shiite militia in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has met the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Youhanna X Yazigi, who is the brother of the missing Bishop Yazigi.

Youhanna X Yazigi is leader of all Greek Orthodox communities in the Middle East.



Vatican Insider

Vatican Insider

Image: Sat 7 Christian Satellite Television

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