POPE APPEALS FOR THE RELEASE OF PRIEST KIDNAPPED IN BAGHDAD

AP Worldstream
Aug 19, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for the release of a priest kidnapped
at gunpoint in Baghdad, in a telegram sent to the Chaldean Patriarch
of the Iraqi capital, the Vatican said Saturday.

In the telegram, sent by the Vatican's Secretary of State Angelo
Sodano, the pontiff said he was "deeply saddened" by the abduction
of the Rev. Hanna Saad Sirop and made a "heartfelt appeal to the
abductors to release the young priest at once, so that he can return
to the service of God, the Christian community and his countrymen."

The telegram was sent to Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel Delly. It gave
the name of the priest as Saad Syrop Hanna, differing slightly from
the name first published Friday by the Vatican-affiliated Asia News
agency.

Bishops from all of Baghdad's Christian churches have sent a letter
to the Iraqi government asking them to help secure the release of
the 34-year-old priest.

The priest, who is director of the Theology Department at Babel
College, was abducted Tuesday as he left Mass celebrating the
Assumption holiday.

The Italian missionary news agency MISNA reported that a large ransom
was asked for the release of the priest, but did not say how much.

In his message, Benedict said he would pray for an end to "this
dreadful scourge" of kidnappings in Iraq and urged Catholics there
"to work together with all religious believers and people of good
will toward a future of harmonious and respectful coexistence for
the beloved nation of Iraq."

Christians make up just 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The
major Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians,
with small numbers of Roman Catholics.