Syria (Vatican Radio/MNN) — From Vatican Radio, the following statement regarding the April 22 kidnapping of two Archbishops Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo (and also a SAT-7 International Council Member), and Boulos Yazaji Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo:
An unknown group has abducted them without claiming its responsibility until now, neither announcing the reasons for the abduction nor knowing their place.
We the Syriac and the Greek Orthodox Archdioceses of Aleppo and in coordination with our two Patriarchates in Damascus, express day after day our sadness and increasing pain about the abduction and the absence of these two eminent Prelates, and to what they represent in terms of their holiness, their local and international rank, their active role on all levels including the spiritual, the thoughts, the academic, the education and the social; but above all the humanitarian work which they were carrying within the current crisis which is engulfing our country Syria.
Today, and after one month of abduction, and despite all the prayers and the supplications in the local churches and worldwide; as well as the calls, the statements and the efforts from the Christian and Muslim organizations in the world and the international community, we renew our request for the abductees to revise their action, fear God, and release the two Archbishops without hurting their health or physical situation; and release all other abducted priests and innocent civilians. One month in abduction is more than enough for the two Archbishops. As it is painful for them in their abduction, it is also painful for all the faithful of their two communities, the people of Syria and the world. The continuous abduction of the two Archbishops is damaging the structure of Syria in its diverse components and its long history of coexistence and citizenship. Such a catastrophe will be remembered and recorded in history, likewise the devastating and the grief of Syria. Such acts will not terrify us because we are the sons of the "Resurrection." We trust that the mercy of the one God whom we all believe in, will guide the abductees and induce them to release the Archbishops without any pre-conditions, because there is no price that equals the freedom of the two Archbishops, and no condition equals their safe return to their communities and churches.
We renew our supplication and continue our prayers with solemnity to our God for the release of the Archbishops, the priests, and all those who are in abduction.
Seven days ago, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan met with His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim. Church leaders asked him to use his clout to get answers on the whereabouts of the two abducted Archbishops, find out who the kidnappers are, and secure release.
According to the news release from the Archdiocese, "His Eminence also personally delivered a private letter to the Prime Minister about what is believed to be relevant facts surrounding the kidnapping and potential whereabouts of the Archbishops. The Prime Minister, through a translator, said to His Eminence that only criminals and terrorists would even think to kidnap holy men and agreed to work toward their release. Prime Minster Erdogan clasped the hand of Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim for a few minutes and added, "Inshallah, they will be released soon."
Meanwhile, during their discussions and international deliberations about Syria, six members of the U.S. House of Representatives circulated a petition on a letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to prioritize the release of the two kidnapped Archbishops. So far, they have 72 signatures.
In the meantime, SAT-7's production team has been tailoring programming to allow a forum for concerns and questions regarding the situation in Syria. Staffers take the opportunity to pray with viewers as well as share biblical truth and wisdom. Please continue praying for the men's safety and release. Pray for wisdom, too, for the SAT-7 team as they address the bishops' critical situation.