Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Two Catholic priests kidnapped in Iraq

AP , BAGHDAD

Pope Benedict XVI made a public appeal yesterday for the release of two Catholic priests kidnapped on their way home from a funeral in northern Iraq.

The priests were abducted about 4pm on Saturday after participating in a funeral in western Mosul, about 360km northwest of Baghdad, according to Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, Mosul's head of the Syrian Catholic Church, one of the branches of the Roman Catholic Church.

Gunmen ambushed the priests' car, dragged them out and took them to an unidentified location, Casmoussa said yesterday, adding he waited a day to publicize the incident because he had hoped the kidnappers would demand ransom and release the priests. He said he hadn't yet heard from the unidentified men.

Casmoussa was kidnapped in January 2005 and released a day later without ransom after the abductors realized his identity.

Meanwhile, the pope asked the kidnappers to "let the two religious men go."

"Serious reports about attacks and violence in Iraq continues to reach us daily, news that rattles the consciences of all those for whom the good of the country and peace in the region is held dear," he said. "Repeating that violence doesn't resolve tensions. I pray to the Lord for their freedom, for peace and for all those who suffer from violence."

The pope made the appeal during his traditional yesterday blessing to pilgrims and tourists at St. Peter's Square in Rome.

The Christian community in Iraq makes up about 3 percent of the country's 26 million people.

In the summer of 2004, insurgents launched a bombing campaign against Baghdad churches, sending Christians fleeing in fear.

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