WITH A PRAYER SERVICE AND COMMEMORATION CEREMONY in St. Ephrem’s Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Aleppo, Syria, all the Syrian Churches marked the 8th anniversary of the abduction April 22, 2013 of Syrian Orthodox Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos (Paul) Yazji. Armenian Catholic Father Michel Kayyal and Greek Orthodox Father Maher Mahfouz were also remembered during the ceremony.
Representatives of all Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant rites and denominations iin Aleppo took part in the gathering. Speaking with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) after the ceremony, Archimandrite Mousa Al-Khasi, the Greek Orthodox Vicar in Aleppo, said: “We gathered here to pray for the safe return of Bishop Boulos Yazji and Bishop Youhanna Ibrahim to their archdioceses. This event is sad for all of us. But with the Grace of God and the solidarity of our brothers and sisters, we have hope. God is the almighty and everything is possible by His Grace.”
Bishop Ibrahim, of the Syrian Orthodox diocese of Aleppo and Archbishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox diocese also in Aleppo, were abducted in the town of Kafr Dael, about 7.5 miles west from Aleppo’s city center. At the time the two bishops were negotiating the release of the two priests, Father Kayyal (and Father Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), who had been abducted in February 2013. On arriving at a checkpoint, their car was surrounded by a group of armed jihadists, who killed the driver, who was a deacon. From the moment of the kidnapping to this day, countless attempts to obtain any information about the fate of the two bishops have not produced any results.
ACN executive president Thomas Heine-Geldern, in a statement read during the celebration, said: “During these eight long years Aid to the Church in Need has prayed and encouraged its donors around the world to come together and to implore in faith for their prompt liberation. We cannot forget them, as St. Paul tell us in his letter to the people of Corinth: ‘If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy’ (1 Corinthians 12:26).”
“Eight years after their abduction ACN never tires of asking for their life, liberation and peace. These two shepherds accompanied their flock in times of difficulty and set an example of faithful dedication. May the God of Life, the Lord of the History be with them.”
Quoting Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Maiorem Hac Dilectionem, Heine-Geldern continued: “Worthy of special consideration and honour are those Christians who, following more than closely the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their life for others and persevered with this determination.”
Archimandrite Mousa Al-Khasi sent a message of gratitude for the donors of ACN: “Thank you, all the members of ACN, for your solidarity and for your help to our people. It gives us hope, that the feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is above all this and it will help us, in these difficult times, to be by Him forever.”
By: Maria Lozano