BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai said Tuesday efforts by his Church to win the release of a group of nuns kidnapped from the historic Syrian town of Maaloula have hit a roadblock.
“We have made multiple contacts with several international sides and the nuns’ release was imminent but the issue stumbled again,” Rai told reporters before heading to the Vatican to take part in meetings at the Roman Catholic Church’s central governing body.
He urged all the countries “that are either eager for a Syria war or to talk peace in Syria” to put efforts to secure the release of the Greek Orthodox nuns who were taken from the Mar Takla convent in Maaloula by gunmen in early December.
“The nuns’ detention is a disgrace to the world,” Rai said.
The group of nuns appeared in a new video broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera on Sunday.
There was no sound on the video. A commentator, however, said the nuns stated that they were in good health, that they haven't been mistreated and that they are waiting for their release to return to the convent.
There was no indication as to where the nuns were being held.
Rai will meet Pope Francis during his two-week stay in the Vatican.
The patriarch also reiterated the need for the formation of a national unity government.
“Just like everybody in Lebanon desires, we want a government that won’t trigger a crisis or a challenge to anyone in Lebanon,” Rai said.
He said it would not be appropriate for President Michel Sleiman or Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to announce a Cabinet that would fail to win a vote confidence after months spent in the formation process.
Rai also urged a speedy formation of a government in order to pave the way for the presidential election. Sleiman’s term expires May 25.
“We must aim for electing a new president because after that matters will unfold and Lebanon will move forward,” Rai said from Beirut airport.
Hopes for the imminent birth of a new government dashed as the issue over the rotation of key ministerial portfolios remained unresolved, political sources told The Daily Star Monday.
Meanwhile, General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim briefed Sleiman on the outcome of his visit to Nigeria which focused on securing the release of Lebanese kidnapped in that oil-rich country in addition to the nuns and two prominent bishops abducted in Syria last April.