Kidnapped Iraqi priests released

Two Catholic priests kidnapped in Iraq have been released and are in good health after being held for a $1 million ransom.

A cleric at the residence of Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly in Baghdad confirmed the priests' release, Reuters reported. The Vatican has also confirmed their release.

Father Mazen Esho and Father Pius Affas were taken prisoner as they traveled to a church in Mosul to celebrate Mass on October 13.

"I talked to the hostages. They are well. They say they were treated like guests," the cleric said.

"We are celebrating their release with a service at a church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where they were taken hostage."

Last week Pope Benedict appealed for the priests to be freed, using his weekly Angelus blessing to send the message that "violence cannot bring relief to this tense situation".

"We were very worried, we hope that kidnappings like this one don't happen again," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Christians in Iraq - most of whom belong to the Chaldean rite - are a small minority currently numbering only 1 million, down from 1.4 million in 1987.

Kidnapped Catholic priests freed in Iraq (Reuters, 21/10/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Church in Iraq (Catholic Hierarchy)

Pope's appeal for release of Iraqi priests (CathNews, 16/10/07)
Randwick Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion (CathNews, 08/11/05)
Bishops http://cathnews.acu.edu.au/703/12.php (CathNews, 02/03/07)

22 Oct 2007