An update from Pravmir:
There have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.
The archbishops were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo after their car was targeted by unidentified gunmen. Metropolitan Paul Yazigi (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo; brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East), and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo) were taken captive, and their driver—apparently a deacon—was shot and killed. The World Council of Arameans indicated earlier today that they had reports the archbishops were being held in Kafar Dael, but were “safe and sound.”
Back in September, Archbishop Ibrahim had told Reuters that Christians in Syria were experiencing renewed suffering in the uprising. “Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways,” he told Reuters, “and their relatives have paid big sums for their release.”
Pope Francis earlier offered “intense prayers” on their behalf. Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the event “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and its Christian communities are living.”
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, called on the “world community to join efforts in order to find the abducted hierarchs as soon as possible,” and prayed for peace to be “re-established in the ancient land of Syria and for Christianity to keep developing there.” Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and all Russia had also called on the Russian government to take steps to ensure the archbishops’ release.
Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land expressed “anger and dismay” at the act, urging all sides in the Syrian conflict “to refrain from using religion as a weapon.”
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called for the archbishops’ release, and condemned any act that would “harm any religious authority figure regardless to which sect he belongs.” Likewise, the Lebanese Shiite scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah (son of the late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah) urged Christians and Muslims to work together for the archbishops’ release, calling the kidnapping “a direct assault on the freedom of two figures that have long worked toward unifying ranks and rejecting strife.”