Good news from AKI:

Negotiations have begun over a ransom to be paid for the release of two captive priests, Pios Affas and Mazen Isho, a source from the Syrian-Catholic diocese of Mosul told Adnkronos International (AKI).

The two clerics are reported to have been seized on Saturday by gunmen in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, as they were attending a funeral. They were taken to an unidentified location, according to Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, Mosul’s head of the Syrian Catholic Church.

The Syrian-Catholic diocese has heard the voice of one of the two priests, who his presumed kidnappers put on the line during a phonecall to the diocese, the source told AKI.

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for the release of Affas and Isho, during his traditional Angelus blessing to pilgrims and tourists at St Peter’s Square in Rome.

“I call on the abductors to rapidly liberate the clerics and I reiterate that violence does not resolve the tensions,” the pontiff said.

The Syrian Catholic church is a branch of the Roman Catholic Church. It has been estimated that the Christian community in Iraq represents about 3 percent of the country’s 26 million people.

It is not known how many Christians have fled Iraq due to the violence.