Iraqi archbishop: Press, prayers for peace and Pope brought freedom
The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, who was kidnapped and then freed a day later has spoken about how his prayers for peace, the media, and the intervention of Pope John Paul, contributed to his release.
Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa said yesterday: "Thank you Holy Father, your immediate intervention was instrumental in my quick release."
Speaking with local Catholic priest, Fr Nizar Semaan on behalf of Fides News Service, Archbishop Casmoussa described his experience: "I did not count my captors, some of them wore masks, some did not. They accused me of being a collaborator with the Americans but, as we talked, they realised that I work instead for the unity and sovereignty of our country at peace with all the neighbouring nations."
He said: "Gradually as the hours passed I saw their determination weaken. They were no longer convinced that I was an adversary, a hated enemy to kill. This morning, before I was released, one of my captors who was obviously deeply impressed that the Pope had appealed for my release, said: 'The Pope himself asked us to set you free'. "
"It was then that I realised that I would be released and I must say this firm hope kept me going " the Archbishop said.
"The most dramatic moment was yesterday evening when they told me to say my last prayer" the Archbishop said.
"I prayed out loud asking God to forgive my sins and then looking at my captors I asked God to help the Iraqi people find once again peace, harmony and unity. I think this instilled respect in my captors and that my prayer played a fundamental role in my liberation.
"I wish to thank God for the gift of life, the gift of freedom and for all those who supported me with their prayers. I wish also to thank the Holy Father and those who work with him for their valid, rapid and discrete assistance. I would also like to thank the media for making my abduction known which helped to put pressure on my captors. "
The Archbishop was seized by gunmen while walking in front of his church. The kidnappers then tossed him into the boot of their vehicle before speeding away. The Archbishop had been outside his church in Mosul's eastern neighbourhood of Muhandeseen.
The Archbishop gave some details about his release. He said: "When they decided to release me they made me hide in the boot of a car, as they did when they took me hostage. They left me in a district of Mosul from where I was able to call the Bishops' residence and ask the staff to come and fetch me. But when after some time the car had not appeared, I took a taxi to my home ."
"This experience gave me time to meditate on the profound meaning of life and death. It strengthened by faith and my determination to make my contribution towards restoring unity and harmony among the Iraqi people. May Iraq be once again a united country and a country of peace" the Archbishop said.