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Pope prays for Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria

Published: Updated:

Pope Francis is praying for the liberation of two Orthodox bishops kidnapped by rebels in northern Syria, the Vatican said on Tuesday, a day after Syrian state media reported the abduction.

Francis “is following developments with deep participation and intense prayer for their well-being and liberation,” the Vatican’s spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told reporters.

The incident is “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation of the population of Syria and its Christian communities,” Lombardi said.

The pope wants “efficient answers to the humanitarian emergency and real hope for peace and reconciliation on the horizon,” he went on.

The Syrian state news agency SANA on Monday reported that two bishops had been kidnapped in a village in Aleppo province in northern Syria.

Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo, were on a humanitarian mission.

The driver of the car they were driving in was reported killed.

Kidnappings have become increasingly prevalent in Syria as law and order has broken down with the spread of the conflict between rebels and loyalist troops.

Activists and human rights groups say minority groups, including Christians, have been particularly vulnerable.

Christians account for about five percent of Syria’s population, and they have remained largely neutral or supportive of the regime since the outbreak of the uprising against the government in early 2011.

But the Syrian opposition also includes prominent Christian members, including George Sabra, a long-time dissident who was named interim head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition on Monday.