April 28 - Syrian Christians hold a mass to pray for the release of two bishops who were kidnapped by gunmen in northern Syria. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Syrian Christians held a Mass on Sunday to pray for the release of two bishops who were kidnapped last week. Greek Orthodox archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were seized on Monday near the northern commercial and industrial hub of Aleppo, which is contested by rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Representatives of twelve Christian sects held the Sunday mass at the Holy Cross Church in Damascus to a packed audience. Well-wishers lit candles and prayed for the safe return of the bishops. During the Mass, Archbishop Jean Kawat, Deputy Patriarch of Syriac Orthodox, read a statement released by both the Patriarchy of Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox, saying the two bishops were on a humanitarian mission when they were kidnapped. "We direct to the kidnappers to tell them that those two, who were kidnapped, are peace messengers in the world and their religious, national and social work is a witness of this. We call them to deal with this incident away from any tensions that does not help but the country's enemies," said Kawat. Authorities blamed the abduction on a "terrorist group", the label they usually give to anti-Assad rebels, but opposition fighters in the province denied they had kidnapped the two and said they were working for their release and trying to find out who had taken them. The bishops were the most senior church figures caught up in the fight between Assad's forces and rebels trying to end four decades of family rule by Assad and his late father. Christians make up less than 10 percent of Syria's 23 million people and, like other religious minorities, many have been wary of the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.