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Released Iraqi Priest Praying for Captors

“I Felt God Was With Me,” Says Father Sirop

ICC Note:

We get to hear the first reaction of the priest who was kidnapped in Iraq after his release, but he said he has been advised against telling about his whole experience for fear of reprisals.

Zenit.org (09/13/06) – The Chaldean priest who spent almost a month in captivity said that he had an acute awareness of God’s protection during his ordeal.

Just hours after his release Monday, Father Hanna Saad Sirop told the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about his hard experience in captivity and expressed his forgiveness of his abductors.

The 34-year-old Iraqi also expressed his gratitude for those who worked and prayed for his safe return.

Father Sirop, who serves at St. Jacob’s Church in the Dora district of Baghdad, heads the theological section of Babel College , run by the Catholic Church in Baghdad . He had planned to go to Rome in early September to study, with the support of ACN.

An ACN communiqué today confirmed that the Chaldean priest telephoned his relatives and friends the minute he was released. The reunion with his loved ones was a “very big moment,” he said.

Father Sirop stressed how prayer for his release has “united” large sectors of Iraq at a time of near civil war.

“I want to thank all those people who helped me with their prayers. That really was a miracle for me,” he told ACN. “From the moment I was kidnapped, I felt God was with me. I began to say: ‘God, you are my protector. You will be with me in my pain.'”

The Chaldean priest expressed to the international charity his willingness to forgive his captors. “I do not hate them,” he said. “I pray for them — I continue to pray for them.”

Delay

Father Sirop said that when he was going to be released, he urged his abductors to delay releasing him, realizing that to be abandoned on the streets of Baghdad after dusk put him at risk from murderous criminals.

His brother eventually picked him up and took him to meet his mother and other family members.

The priest said he has been advised against revealing his experience during his captivity for fear of reprisals.

According to ACN, the priest’s release means that he is able to begin studies in philosophy in Rome .

The Chaldean priest’s disappearance spread growing alarm in the Christian community, as kidnappings in the country involving priests had until now been of short duration.