As part of an official visit to Doha, Qatar, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, appealed for help gaining the release of two kidnapped Syrian bishops and three priests.
Maronite Archbishop Paul Sayah, patriarchal vicar, told Catholic News Service in an email sent on October 23 from Qatar that the kidnapping of the two bishops and the three priests had been on the agenda with the three officials Cardinal Rai had already met: Qatar’s prime minister, the minister of culture and the emir.
Archbishop Sayah, who was traveling with the cardinal, said the officials “all promised to do their utmost to find out who their kidnappers are and their whereabouts, and help, in any way possible, to secure their release.”
Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo were kidnapped on April 22 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission. Several priests also have been kidnapped this year.
Archbishop Sayah told CNS he found it “very strange and utterly unacceptable that no one has been able to locate the bishops and the priests after all this time, knowing that each one of the rebel factions is financed and presumably directed by one country or another.”
He said the effect of the kidnappings “has contributed to making the Christians of Syria in particular feel all the more vulnerable, and consequently more inclined to leave if they can.”
Cardinal Rai traveled to Qatar on October 22 for a three-day official visit at the invitation of Qatar’s emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Before leaving the airport in Beirut, Cardinal Rai thanked Qatar for its role in the release of nine Shiite Lebanese and their families, kidnapped by rebel groups in May 2012 while on their way from Iran to Lebanon via Turkey and Syria.
The pilgrims were freed on October 19 as part of a deal that also involved the release of two Turkish Airlines pilots, who were kidnapped in August in Beirut, and dozens of Syrian women detainees.
“I will also call for liberating all those who are unjustly detained, wherever they may be, because this thing is against human rights and human dignity, and I hope all officials in Qatar will play a positive role after our meetings there,” the patriarch added.