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Syrian bishop says 30,000 Christians have fled Aleppo


The Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said on Thursday that up to 30,000 Christians have fled the Syrian city and spoke of his concern about two priests kidnapped weeks ago.

Audo, who was in Rome as a representative of the Caritas-Syria charity for a meeting of regional humanitarian organisations, told AFP that the situation in the war-ravaged city was "painful".

"I do my work from Damascus. I am in contact with my vicar, my priests, my friends and my relatives. The closure of Aleppo airport and the dangerous road have prevented my return," he said.

"I have been advised not to travel there despite my strong desire to be with my people," he said.

"A month and 10 days ago in Aleppo, two young priests were kidnapped. Ransoms of 15 million Syrian pounds, or around $150,000 (116,000 euros), have been demanded," he said.

Audo said between 20,000 and 30,000 Christians out of a Christian minority of 160,000 have fled.

"I am sure (Pope Francis) will do everything he can to help us," he said.