Kidnappers release two Chaldean Catholic priests in Iraq

ROME (CNS) — The kidnapped rector of the Chaldean Catholic seminary and a kidnapped parish priest in Baghdad, Iraq, have been released.

Father Samy Al Raiys, the rector, was released after being held for six days.

Father Al Raiys had been abducted near his home at the Church of St. George the morning of Dec. 4. The Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad announced the priest’s Dec. 10 release on its Web site.

The Rome-based AsiaNews agency reported Dec. 11 the reasons for the priest’s abduction and release were still unknown, but it said the rector’s health “was fine.”

Before his kidnapping, Father Al Raiys had been scheduled to inaugurate the new academic year at the Simon Peter seminary, which had been closed since the summer because of a lack of security. The seminary was to have reopened Dec. 6 for a trial week of classes, but the opening was postponed when the rector was kidnapped.

The seminary and its college of theology had been moved from its original location in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora after the neighborhood had become too volatile, AsiaNews reported. Violence and threats against Christians have intensified in the seminary’s new location in Jadida, a neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad, the news agency added.

Father Doglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean Catholic parish priest of St. Elias Church in Baghdad, was released Nov. 28 after being held for nine days, AsiaNews reported Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Redemptorist Father Bashar Warda said church officials paid a ransom of $170,000 for the priests’ release. It was unclear if the two were kidnapped by the same people.

Father Warda reported that Father Al-Bazi said the kidnappers, who were working with the Iraqi police and army, were able to travel on roads and stop at checkpoints without a problem.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.