The Iraqi archbishop, who was kidnapped Monday but released yesterday after 19 hours in captivity, credits the Pope for his quick release. The Vatican had called the abduction a ''despicable terrorist act'' and demanded that the kidnappers free him immediately.
Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa was released without payment of ransom, the Vatican said. The kidnappers initially demanded $200,000.
''The kidnappers themselves told me this morning about (the Pope’s) appeal, which I maintain was a decisive factor in my liberation,” the archbishop was quoted as saying.
The 66-year-old archbishop told Vatican Radio that he was not mistreated and he did not think the kidnappers “wanted to strike at the Church per se.'' He said his kidnappers did not realize who he was when they kidnapped him.
Papal spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican did not view the kidnapping as an anti-Christian act but part of the general climate of violence in Iraq, reported the Associated Press.
Pope John Paul II was reportedly told of the archbishop’s release and immediately offered prayers of thanks.
An estimated 15,000 Christians have left Iraq since August, when four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were bombed, killing 12 people and injuring 61. A fifth church was bombed in Baghdad in September.
Christians make up three percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The largest Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians.