Church says it has no information on kidnapped bishops, after group claims they have been freed

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Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox archdiocese said Wednesday it had no news on two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria, a day after a Christian association said the two men had been released.

“We have no new information,” Ghassan Ward, a priest at the archdiocese, told AFP. “We can say that (as far as we know) they haven’t been freed,” he added of Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim.

The two men, both from Aleppo, were seized on Monday, but the French Oeuvre d’Orient Christian association said on Tuesday that they had been freed and were already at the northern city’s Saint Elias Cathedral.

The Paris-based association, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians, said it was “delighted by the rapid liberation of the two bishops”.

But Ward told AFP on Wednesday that there had been “no contact with them,” adding that “efforts are continuing” to secure their release.

“We are very worried,” he said.

Meantime, Pope Francis repeated his appeal for prayers for Syria:

Pope Francis on Wednesday turned his attention to the continuing violence in Syria and prayed for the release of two Metropolitpan Orthodox Bishops held by unknown kidnappers.

Speaking to the crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis prayed for the rapid release of Bishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and John Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church who were abducted as they travelled to the city of Aleppo on Monday whilst on a humanitarian mission. Their driver was killed.

The Pope said the kidnapping is yet another sign of the tragic situation in Syria, where violence and bloodshed continue to sow death and destruction. And Pope Francis renewed his appeal for an end to the violence, for a political solution to the crisis, and for necessary humanitarian aid for the population.

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