(Photo: Barnabas Fund)
The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Metropolitan Paul Yazigi have been released unharmed after they were kidnapped by gunmen outside the city.
"We know very well that the role these bishops are playing in Aleppo is to encourage the Syrian Christians, and strengthen them to remain in their land," said Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, according to Christian ministry SAT-7.
The bishops were stopped on Monday traveling back from negotiations to release captives taken by Syrian rebels when attackers shot their driver and took the bishops hostage.
Syria has been in an intense civil war for more than a year, with rebels trying to take down the government of Bashar al Assad, whom they deem to be a tyrant. SAT-7 reports that more than 75,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, many of them civilians, while more than one million people have fled to neighboring countries.
Gregorios has been campaigning for journalists to be allowed to move freely in the country and report on what they see, which he said would reveal the "true picture of the tragedy suffered by Syrians".
SAT-7 said it would release more details about how the bishops were released later on Wednesday. Pope Francis has said that he was praying for the release for the bishops and for the end of violence in the war-torn country.
"The kidnapping of the Greek Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan bishops, regarding whose liberation there has been conflicting news, is a further sign of the tragic situation that the beloved Syrian nation has been undergoing, where violence and weapons continue to sow death and suffering," the Roman Catholic leader said earlier.
Churches and parishes across Europe had also been praying for the bishops. Rome-based St. Egidio Community held a prayer vigil on Tuesday dedicated to the Orthodox church leaders.
"He is also praying so that, with the support and prayers of all, the Syrian people may finally see tangible responses to the humanitarian drama and real hopes of peace and reconciliation may rise on the horizon," added Father Federico Lombardi, the current director of the Holy See Press Office.