Syrian bishops who warned of religious intolerance kidnapped

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Two well-known bishops in Syria who had issued repeated warnings to church and political officials about the nation’s religious intolerance were kidnapped Monday by armed rebel fighters in Aleppo.

Their driver was killed, the Vatican Press Office reported on Tuesday.

Reuters reported that the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were captured by a group of terrorists as they were “carrying out humanitarian work,” Syria’s news agancy said.

The pair was kidnapped while en route to Aleppo from Bab al Wawa crossing with Turkey, which is held and controlled by rebel forces, Reuters said.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis prayed for the bishops, the Vatican’s spokesman said, in the Inquirer.

The pope “is following developments with deep participation and intense prayer for their well-being and liberation,” Frederico Lombardi said, in the Inquirer. On Vatican Radio, Mr. Lombardi also said the kidnappings show a “dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and the Christian communities in Syria are living.”

Christians comprise less than 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million people. The bishops are the highest-ranking church officials — including those of Muslim faith — to be taken hostage in the past two years of conflict in the nation, Reuters reported.

It’s not known yet which rebel faction is responsible for the kidnappings, Reuters reported.

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