BEIRUT (CNS) — Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch and Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch called for the release of two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria.
“We demand the kidnappers and the countries concerned” to release the two bishops and the two priests kidnapped before them, and all those who have been kidnapped on Syrian territory, said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X in a joint statement from Bkerke, the Maronite patriarchate north of Beirut.
“We express our sorrow and regret for the continuation of the cycle of violence in Syria, which kills people and destroys their homes,” the two religious leaders said in their appeal on behalf of Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo.
The Orthodox leaders were kidnapped April 22 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.
Cardinal Rai and Patriarch John also urged all Lebanese parties, as well as regional and international powers to end their involvement in the Syrian conflict.
“On the contrary, we appeal to everyone to work for peace, safeguard the history of Syria and its civilization, which dates back to centuries,” they said.
The cardinal and the patriarch called for “a political solution through dialogue and negotiation” to the Syrian conflict that is “fair and equitable for all.” They emphasized that such a solution should be generated internally and not imposed on the Syrian people from outside powers.
They urged countries in the region, the international community and international institutions “to carry out their responsibilities towards displaced Syrians” and to help Lebanon as it struggles to host and accommodate more than 1 million displaced Syrians.
However, they said, what is needed is “the foundation to stop the violence and war, so that the displaced people can return to their homes and lands as soon as possible.”
“We ask God to inspire all consciences … to work to bring about a just and comprehensive peace, and respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life,” they said.