Mass held in Rome for kidnapped Syrian bishops

Eastern Catholic clergy celebrated a Mass in Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin to pray for two archbishops and two priests who remain the hostages of rebels in Syria.

Archimandrite Mtanious Haddad, rector of the Greek Melkite Catholic Basilica, said there are "so many" people who have been kidnapped.

"Our Mass today was to pray for all those Christians and moderate Muslims who have been kidnapped," he told CNA.

According to Fr. Haddad, the rebels "want to show that there is no more coexistence between Christians and Muslims but this isn't true."

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped by rebels on April 22 and are still being held in a village northwest of Aleppo.

Gunmen pulled the two Christian archbishops out of their car and shot their driver, a deacon.

They were on their way to Aleppo from the Turkish border in an effort to negotiate the release of two priests, Armenian Catholic Father Michel Kayyal and Father Maher Mahfouz, a Greek Orthodox Christian.

The priests had been abducted on Feb. 9 when the bus they were riding on from Aleppo to Damascus was stopped. They are still being held captive.

Fr. Kayyal was the student of Monsignor Georges Dankaye Noradounguian, the rector of Rome's Pontifical Armenian College. Msgr. Dankaye concelebrated the solemn Mass in Rome on May 10.

He described Fr. Kayyal as "an excellent and very good person with a lot of faith."
"He was trying to distribute humanitarian aid with three or four other priests so he has been living the war in a very special way," the monsignor told CNA after the Mass.

The Lebanese Ambassador to the Holy See, Georges El Khoury, attended the Eucharistic ceremony as did as the Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See, Habeeb Al-Sadr, who is Muslim.

Msgr. Dankaye said news coverage of Syria is too uniform.

He said that "the international community's 600 TV channels broadcast the exact same version, while the only Syrian TV channel that exists and broadcasts daily news in English has been blocked."

"People against the regime are outside Syria," he said. "War always has its reasons and its logic, and the true reasons for it are always hidden."

Fr. Haddad also criticized the war.

"The Syrian war is not a crisis between Muslims and Christians or Muslims and other Muslims and it's not a Syrian civil war from and for Syrians," he told CNA.

"This is a war imported from outside and we have traitors who have sold themselves to outsiders for a bit of money."

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He said that the rebels are "trying to show there is a problem between Christians and Muslims in Syria when there isn't and there never has been."

During his homily he called the kidnappers "traitors" and said Syrians need to solve their own issues "like in a conclave, without outside intervention."

"Our petro-dollar Arabic neighbors have bought some Syrians and it's a surprise to me when a Syrian is happy to see a Syrian soldier murdered," said Fr. Haddad at the basilica.

He added that now there are "terrorists and non-terrorists from Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have gone to fight in Syria saying they want to liberate Jerusalem."

"But can one liberate Jerusalem from Aleppo?" he asked. "We all know where the path to Jerusalem is."

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