.- The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, has denied a report by the Aina news agency that four Iraqi priests kidnapped last Saturday have been released. “The two priests Father Pius Afas and Father Mazen Ishoa are still in the hands of their captors,” he said.
According to the Misna news agency, which spoke directly with the archbishop, the news of the release “is not accurate. The last contact with the kidnappers was yesterday evening (Sunday) when they called us on the phone and asked for a ransom payment of one million dollars—an amount that is not within our possibilities,” the agency reported.
“This morning we have called the kidnappers a number of times, but we have not yet received an answer. We have faith and we pray for the release of our two priests,” the archbishop said, adding that he was hopeful the priests would be released soon.
Pope calls for release
After the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the news of the kidnappings. "Serious news of attacks and violence continues to arrive daily from Iraq," he said, "shaking the conscience of all people who have the good of that country and the peace of the region in their heart. Among this news, I learned today of the kidnapping of two good priests of the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Mosul, who have been threatened with death.”
"I appeal to the kidnappers to release the two religious immediately and, in underlining once again that violence does not resolve tensions, I raise to the Lord a heartfelt prayer for their liberation, for all those suffering from violence, and for peace."
The two priests were kidnapped last Saturday at 4pm as they were traveling to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in al-Faisaliya.
Father Pius Affas is professor of Biblical Studies at the local seminary and publishes the magazine “Christian Thought.” Father Mazen Ishoa was just recently ordained to the priesthood.