Appeals for release of Syrian nuns

Pope adds prayers for sisters’ wellbeing

Pope Francis and Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch have issued separate appeals for the safe release of 11 nuns and the orphans in their care who were kidnapped from the ancient monastery of St Thecla in the Christian town of Maalula during an Islamist attack. The November 30 assault on the town, the second this year, saw Islamist forces including members of the radical Jabhat al-Nusra group storm the monastery and forcibly remove all the occupants. According to the leader of a Christin convent near to the scene of the abductions, the nuns and children have been transferred to the city of Yabroud, a rebel stronghold 80kms north of the capital Damascus.

During his December 4 weekly audience, Pope Francis referred to the incident.

Work together

“I invite everyone to pray for the sisters of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Santa Thecla in Maalula,” he said. “Let us continue to pray and to work together for peace.”

Separately, Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yazigi issued his own call, in which he stated: “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely.”

The removal of the nuns from Maalula has reportedly left the town, once a haven of the ancient Aramaic language, devoid of its Christian presence as the congregation was the only remaining Christian representation there.