World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that “fervent prayer offered by Christians around the world” was answered with release of Greek Orthodox nuns kidnapped by rebels in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula.
A group of nuns from the Convent of St Thecla, abducted in December 2013, has been freed as part of a prisoner exchange, according to media reports.
In a letter sent to John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Dr Tveit expressed “great joy” on the news.
He said this news raises hope for the freedom of Archbishop Mar Yohanna Gregorios Ibrahim, Archbishop Paul Yazigi, Fr Maher Mahfouz of the Greek Orthodox Church, Fr Michel Kayyal of the Armenian Catholic Church and Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit priest, all five of whom were kidnapped last year.
Tveit said, “Our prayers will continue not only for the freedom of these brothers and all those being held captive today.”
He also invoked prayers for an “end of the armed conflict in Syria” and “for all people affected by the indiscriminate violence and humanitarian calamity in Syria”.
“Innocent children, women and men are being killed, wounded, traumatised and driven from their homes in uncounted numbers,” wrote Tveit.
“We hear their cries and we pray at this time for the Spirit of God to dwell in all leaders of the church so that they may have courage in these days of tribulation,” Tveit said.
Since the conflict began in Syria, the WCC has made several appeals for the cessation of violence in Syria and freedom for the abducted people in the country.
In his recent meeting with Pope Francis, the WCC General Secretary also mentioned support of the WCC member churches towards efforts for peace in Syria.
“As the WCC, we do what we can to nurture the hope of peace with justice for the people of Syria and for the future presence and witness of the Christian churches in the Middle East,” he said.