BEIRUT: The Maronite bishops made a fervent plea Wednesday for the release of 12 nuns as well as orphans the nuns look after at a convent in Syria.
“The bishops expressed strong lament and condemnation for the kidnapping of the nuns and orphans in Maaloula,” said a statement from the Council of Maronite Bishops at the end of their monthly meeting chaired by Patriarch Beshara Rai at Bkirki.
“What do those who pray for peace in the Syrian conflict have to do with this?” the Bishops asked.
They urged the international community to determine the whereabouts of the nuns and return them to the convent.
Pope Francis on Wednesday called for prayers for the nuns and for all hostages held in Syria.
It could not be confirmed whether the nuns had been abducted or evacuated for their own safety. It was also not immediately clear whether the orphans were taken from the convent.
Rebels, including fighters from the Nusra Front, recaptured Maaloula, located north of Damascus, from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces after three days of heavy clashes Monday.
The nuns, who had sought shelter inside the convent, were among the few residents left in Maaloula.
In September, they were trapped inside the convent with dozens of orphans during the first round of fighting between Assad forces and rebels in the town.
The bishops also expressed concerns over the latest wave of bombings in Lebanon and the violence in the northern city of Tripoli “where the law of the jungle prevails, allowing for killings, destruction and displacement of innocent citizens.”
However, they hailed the efforts of the Lebanese Army and security forces in coping with the situation in Tripoli.
The bishops also strongly criticized Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, pointing to the Jewish state’s espionage activities in Lebanon.
They slammed political parties for seeking to “build their own mini-state with the support of a friendly or sisterly side.”
“That's what makes Lebanon hostage to regional conflicts and a prisoner of international politics,” the bishops warned.
They also called on politicians to draft a new parliamentary elections law and form a government “that can stand as a bulwark in the face of challenges.”
The bishops denounced the political stalemate “which has paralyzed the public sector and resulted in shortcomings in state institutions, which promoted the spread of corruption.”