Pope appeals for release of hostages in Syria

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is appealing to the “humanity” of kidnappers in Syria to release hostages.

Francis urged prayers for “beloved Syria” as he spoke from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to a crowd below. He lamented that the war there has stricken a defenseless people aspiring to peace.

Francis decried the “plague of kidnappings.” Both rebels and pro-regime forces have abducted political foes, members of rival sects and others, including journalists, to settle scores or for ransom.

Among those snatched were two Orthodox bishops who were abducted in April.

The pope assured families of hostages of his prayers.

Francis expressed strong concern that the conflict has dragged on for more than two years.

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