Baghdad Patriarch Welcomes Release of Hostages

3 Italians and Pole Freed in Iraq Raid

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, JUNE 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad was overjoyed by the release of three Italian hostages, held by a rebel Iraqi group since April.



"We thank the Lord with all our heart for the liberation of the Italian hostages on the eve of the feasts of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Sacred Heart," Patriarch Emmanuel Delly told AsiaNews.

U.S. special forces freed the three Italian captives today south of Baghdad, a top American general said, in the first successful commando raid to rescue foreigners caught up in Iraq's wave of kidnappings. A Polish hostage, Jerzy Kos, was also freed.

At the end of April, ZENIT learned from Vatican sources that Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the apostolic nuncio in Baghdad, was offering his help to obtain the release of the Italian hostages.

The three were kidnapped by a group calling itself the "Green Brigades." Also kidnapped with them was Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was killed immediately by the guerrillas.

The freed Italian hostages, Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana, were in Iraq working as private security guards.

"We are very pleased by this positive outcome," Patriarch Delly said. "We pray that the Lord blesses the eternal rest of the Italian who was tragically killed."

Asked if the Church in Iraq played a role in their release, the patriarch replied, "I prefer not to comment on that."

Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad had made a series of contacts in the Shiite and Sunni communities aimed at obtaining the release of the hostages.