Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - On the evening of Monday, January 4 the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land released a short statement confirming Fr. Dhiya Azziz OFM, a Franciscan friar, who disappeared on 23 December, has now been freed. The statement, sent to Agenzia Fides, reports that Fr. Azziz is doing well, and no further details were given "due to confidentiality reasons" and thanked "all those who helped us to liberate him". The 41-year-old Franciscan, who is now in Damascus, is the parish priest in the town of Yacoubieh, in Idlib province, in an area under the control of a faction of jihadist rebels. Contacts were lost on Christmas eve, while he was making his way back from Turkey to his parish. Fr. Aziz had been visiting family who took refuge in Turkey. The Custody of the Holy Land had then issued a statement in which there was the hypothesis that he had been "taken by some group".
The Franciscan had already been kidnapped by a group of jihadists in July, and released after a few days (see Fides 11/07/2015). On that occasion, the priest had been taken by a brigade of militants for a short meeting with the Emir who exercised authority in the region. At that time the Jabat al-Nusra jihadist group, very strong in the area, had denied any involvement in the kidnapping of the Franciscan priest. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 05/01/2016)