Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Kidnapped Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

Kidnapped Archbishop Paul Yagizi

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here

  • Dale

    This is very sad and worrisome. The kidnapping may be ideological, or it may be motivated by a desire for ransom money. Whichever it is, the situation is dangerous for the hostages.

    Syria is not a good place to be, at present. The bishops are courageous, not only for staying, but for traveling through the countryside. That they were on a humanitarian mission makes the situation even more tragic.

    The senior Sunni imam in Syria was killed last month when his mosque was bombed. Not even high ranking clergy are safe there.