2013-12-04 15:47:00

Moscow, Antioch Patriarchates call for release of kidnapped Syrian nuns

Moscow, December 4, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate has called the abduction of nuns from the St. Thecla Convent in the ancient Syrian city of Maalula an inhumane act.

"The Russian Orthodox Church is praying for the abducted nuns from the St. Thecla Convent, like it does for Metropolitans Paul and Gregory John Ibrahim, who were earlier abducted by rebels, and other imprisoned Christians, clergymen, and laymen, for all long-suffering people of Syria," the communications service of the synodal service of the external church relations department said in a statement.

John I, the head of the Antioch Church, earlier called this event "an outrageous act of aggression against human dignity, against the voice of peace and prayer". He called on the abductors to free the nuns and guarantee the safety of the convent and asked the global community to assist with the hostages' release.

The Moscow Patriarchate joined the Antioch patriarch's call, condemning "the cynical act by extremists, who deserve a fair punishment."

"It's time for people of good will to state their definite non-acceptance of such inhumane actions and unanimously condemn terrorism, no matter what slogans they use to justify themselves," the statement says.

According to the information possessed by the Moscow Patriarchate, Syrian rebels took over a convent, which has a shelter housing several orphaned girls, during the fighting for the city of Maalula on December 2. Some of the nuns and women living in the convent, lead by Hegumeness Pelagia (Sayaf) were taken hostage and taken away in an unknown direction.

"There is information that some of the nuns were wounded in the attack on the convent and the convent suffered considerable damage. Some of the nuns were found the next day (some left their shelters after the terrorists left and others were found in hospitals). There is information that the whereabouts of the hegumeness and another five nuns remains unknown. A search for them is ongoing," the communication service has reported.

Maalula is a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria and a world cultural heritage monument.