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Free the Nuns of St. Thekla! Pope, Orthodox Leaders Urge Prayer for Kidnapped Nuns in Syria

By Deacon Keith Fournier
December 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pope Francis asked us to "Pray for these sisters and for all the people who have been kidnapped as a result of the ongoing conflict. We must continue to pray and work together for peace, entrusting ourselves to Mary". Maronite Bishop Samir Mazloum asked What fault is it of the nuns and the innocent civilians to become victims and turn into hostages? "Nuns spend their time praying. They do not fight or carry guns." Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X Yazigi, urged the Jihadist militia Jabhat al-Nusra to return the nuns from St Thekla monastery. He also asked for help from the international community. We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely. We call upon the international community and world governments to [help secure the] release the nuns of the St Tecla convent.

MAALOULA, SYRIA (Catholic Online) - During his general audience on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, Pope Francis called the 60,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peters square and Christians around the world to prayer for the freedom of the Orthodox nuns of the convent of St Thekla in Maaluola.

They were kidnapped by violent Jihadists.

The monastery is in Maaloula, which means "entrance" in Arimaic. It is a vital Christian stronghold in this ancient land with a profound Christian history. It is named after St. Thekla, a disciple of St. Paul who faced a heroic and miraculous martyrdom. These twelve women bring honor to her memory and carry forward the witness to the Gospel in this land ravaged by violence.

Pope Francis asked us to " Pray for these sisters and for all the people who have been kidnapped as a result of the ongoing conflict. We must continue to pray and work together for peace, entrusting ourselves to Mary". Maronite Bishop Samir Mazloum asked in an interview with the European press, What fault is it of the nuns and the innocent civilians to become victims and turn into hostages?"Nuns spend their time praying. They do not fight or carry guns."

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Syria, Youhanna X Yazigi, urged the Jihadist militia Jabhat al-Nusra to return the nuns from St Thekla monastery. He also asked for help from the international community. We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely. We call upon the international community and world governments to [help secure the] release the nuns of the St Tecla convent.

The Patriarch also indicated that orphans in the foster care of the nuns had also been abducted.

When Pope Francis called for a day of prayer and fasting to stop the possible strike against Syria last September, I urged our readers around the globe to stand in solidarity with Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, the servant of the servants of God - and all who stand with us - beginning right now in praying for the intervention of heaven. Let us heed the invitation coming from Rome and join in this historic event on Saturday, September 7, 2013.

I was deeply moved by his message and his manner during that crisis. he is a true peacemaker and a man who understands the true power of prayer. The one hundred thousand gathered in St Peters Square pleading for God's intervention opened my eyes to see what is really necessary in this time of global travail. There is no more powerful force on earth than the prayer of the Church of Jesus Christ.  In fact, we all know what happened. The strike was averted.

So, once again, I ask our readers around the globe to listen to this appeal from Pope Francis. Pray for the release of these twelve nuns.Make it a part of your daily prayer. Believe that God hears these prayers, because he does.   

We regularly cover the plight of Christians in Syria and will continue to do so. That is because they are our brothers and sisters. We are called to "bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2) As we evaluate the various conflicts in the Middle East it is vitally important to be informed by news sources which paint the full picture of what is happening. 

Christians preceded Muslims in calling Syria their home. They must not be forced to leave this ancient and holy land. We are living in a new missionary age and there is a growing persecution of the Church on a global scale. It has different faces. However, we must not forget what lies at the root of this horror.

Whether in the West, where the memory of Christian influence fades under increasing persecution inflicted by intolerant secularism and godless materialism and nihilism, or in the East, which bleeds under the overt persecution from Jihadists, the challenge we face grows daily and cries out for prayer, solidarity and action. 

It is also critically important for us to remember that Christians in Syria were there long before the Muslims. We have a two thousand year history in the Middle East. Syria was the home of many monks, mystics and missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some of the most beautiful of the Patristic writings were penned by Syrian Saints and the Liturgy and hymnody of the early Church was enriched by the worship of those same wonderful saints. Now, our brethren are shedding their blood because they profess the Christian faith. We Must Not Remain Silent!

I also caution our readers to be careful as they follow the news on this crisis and stay focused on the plight of the Christians in Syria. Both because of our special obligation in solidarity with them, but also because their plight is the key to understanding what is really happening in this growing conflict.

I remind our readers of the spiritual warfare which is involved in the call to be peacemakers. That is indeed also our call if we are to be the children of God.(Mt. 5:9) We need to remember the words written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth: For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:4,5)

It is time to take our position, alongside of millions on earth and multitudes in heaven,and wield the weapon of focused, sustained prayer. We need to pray for these nuns to be returned to their monastery. We need to pray for the protection of all Christians in Syria. May the Lord give them the strength to endure and persevere. We need to pray for an end to the bloodshed and an end to the horrid persecution of Christians.

We ask the Lord to dispel the evil behind this ongoing assault on Christianity in that land of saints and martyrs. We also add our voices to the growing chorus of those urging international leaders to act together and find a way to halt the evil which is devastating that beautiful land. Free the nuns of St Thekla!

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