Aleppo – Silence still shrouds the plight of the Orthodox Bishops kidnapped on April 22 on the outskirts of Aleppo. For weeks, the Greek-orthodox Patriarchate has been trying to establish contacts to start a negotiation and cannot understand the reasons behind the act, which remains unexplained. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Jeanclement Jeanbart, the Greek-Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, said that “we are groping in the dark”, “the situation – he explains – is very delicate, for safety reasons the Orthodox Patriarchate is keeping quiet to avoid generating false news.”
For the prelate, the only thing certain is that no one knows where Msgr. Yohanna Ibrahim and Msgr. Boulos Yaziji and the two priests kidnapped in February are. “We Catholics – he adds – are close to our Orthodox brothers and sisters, with prayer and with our constant physical and moral presence.”
Archbishop Jeanbart expresses his sorrow for a country, a people and a city like Aleppo destroyed and ravaged by war, hunger, despair. “The whole city is suffering – he says – people are tired and afflicted.” The bishop explained that families are struggling to find food, fuel and other goods even the most basic are scarce. The Church tries to help everyone without distinction. Thanks to donations, the Greek-Melkite community has kicked off a program to support the poorest households, with subsidies amounting to 50% of the average salary of a worker. In addition, the daily distribution of food, medical care and free schooling for children.
For the prelate, “priests, bishops and religious leaders have the task of giving hope to the people with material aid and through words of comfort.” “The population is aware that the Church does not deceive them with false promises.”
And now, the whole country is isolated, with Internet communications down with mobile phones the only remaining bridge with the outside world. The cause of the blackout is as yet unknown.
Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have revived a channel of dialogue between rebels and the regime and the possibility of a cease-fire, taking up the role vacated by Kofi Annan in June 2012. On a visit to Russia, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, has had several discussions on the issue with President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow and Washington will work together to convince both the Syrian government and the opposition to stop the violence and to create a transitional government, which could also include officials of the regime.