2014-10-10 08:36:00

Syria: abducted Franciscan priest released

(Vatican Radio)  The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has confirmed that Father Hanna Jallouf OFM, the Franciscan parish priest kidnapped in Syria by brigades linked to the militant group Jahbat Al-Nusra late Sunday has been released.  Some 20 Christians had been abducted along with him.  Father Jallouf is one of two parish priests in the area of Knayeh (Qunayeh) , not far from the border with Turkey.  Some 700 Catholic families live in the village.  Three Franciscan nuns also live there, operating a youth centre and a dispensary.

According to Italian news reports, up until last Christmas, Knayeh was under the control of ISIS militants, who had imposed a number of limitations on Christians, including the removal of crosses over churches, a ban on ringing church bells, the covering of statues and an obligation for women to cover up with the Islamic veil. The Islamic State jihadists later moved further east and were replaced by al Qaeda militants from Al Nusra. Recently, militants in charge of the village had seized Father Jallouf's passport.

Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Patriarchal Vicar of Aleppo for Latin rite Catholics, told the Catholic news agency Fides, "We know that he is well, and this is important, but there is no news of the release of the men who were kidnapped with him". Four women who had also been kidnapped had been released yesterday. In a statement, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land reports that Fr. Jallouf has been placed under "house arrest" at the Convent of St. Joseph, in the village of Knayeh. Local sources told Fides that the measure was ordered by the Islamic Court.

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