Lebanon News

Greek Orthodox patriarch meets with Ibrahim before Vatican trip

Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, left, and John Ibrahim of the Assyrian Orthodox Church, right, who were kidnapped Monday, in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/SANA)

BEIRUT: Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi discussed developments Thursday in the case of two bishops kidnapped in Syria with General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.

The two met at the Rafik Hariri International Airport for 20 minutes before Yazigi left for the Vatican.

“We thank everyone for their efforts particularly Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for the efforts he has made in the case of the kidnapped two bishops and we will remain hopeful,” Yazigi told reporters at the Beirut airport in response to a question about the meeting with Ibrahim.

“God willing, soon we will all celebrate the presence of bishops Yazigi and Yohanna among us,” he said.

Armed men abducted Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim in April while they were on their way to Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Yazigi is scheduled to hold talks with the pope and discuss the situation in Syria and the Christians in the Middle East.

“Wherever we go, we carry the concerns of our people and the region so there will be deliberations about the situation in our countries in the East, Syria and Lebanon,” he said.

He also thanked the pope for the call for peace he made earlier this month for the world and in Syria.

Yazigi also discussed the situation of the predominantly Christian Syrian village of Maaloula, which recently came under attack by radical rebel groups who reportedly destroyed and looted churches, forcing dozens of families to flee.

The patriarch said he made an appeal earlier this week to distance the village from clashes and spare it damage.

The village is of great significance to Christianity as some of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language believed to be spoken by Jesus.

“The appeal was also for all international organizations, the International Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and government and non-government organizations to help the village from a humanitarian aspect and provide it with water, electricity and food for the 40 individuals, including nuns and orphans, in the Mar Takla monastery,” Yazigi said.

He noted that the nuns were not hostages but that they refused to leave the monastery.

Asked about the presence of Christians in the Middle East, Yazigi said Christians and Muslims of this region share a similar history and fate and “we have always lived side by side despite some circumstances.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2013, on page 3.




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