Franciscan priest freed from captivity in Syria

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Roman Catholic officials said Tuesday that a Franciscan priest who had been abducted by militants in Syria has been freed.

The custodian of the Catholic Church's properties in the Holy Land said the priest, Rev. Dhiya Azziz, was released late Monday. The office of the custodian, Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said the priest was abducted by jihadis who had hoped to "profit" from the abduction.

The statement did not elaborate, and it was not clear which of the multiple militant groups in Syria had been holding the priest or whether a ransom had been paid.

Sir, the news agency of the Italian bishops' conference, said the Iraqi-born Azziz was abducted on Dec. 23 as he traveled from Turkey to the town of Yacoubiyeh in Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

The Vatican's envoy in Aleppo, Monsignor Georges Abou Khazen, told the agency that Azziz had been treated well in captivity but was exhausted and needed to rest.

Sir said it was the second time that Azziz had been abducted. In July he managed to escape after a few days.

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