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Pope Francis pleads for the release of the six nuns kidnapped in Haiti

As the masses of faithful gathered in St. Peter's square to listen to the Pope's mass, the pontiff addressed last Friday's kidnapping of a bus-load of people in Haiti.

In asking fervently for their release, I pray for social harmony in the country, and I ask all to put a stop to the violence, which causes so much suffering to that dear population,” he said.

The kidnapping took place on 19 January in broad daylight in the centre of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The nuns, who belong to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne, were accompanied by an undetermined number of unidentified people on the bus who also were kidnapped, according to a statement by the Haitian Conference of the Religious.

Port-au-Prince ruled by gangs

It wasn't immediately known who was responsible for Friday's kidnappings, although gangs that control an estimated 80% of Port-au-Prince have been blamed for thousands of abductions.

Last year, about 3,000 people were reported kidnapped, and nearly 4,000 killed according to UN statistics.

The nuns are the latest high-profile kidnapping victims reported in Haiti. In late November, renowned Haitian Dr. Douglas Pape was abducted in Port-au-Prince. He has yet to be released despite multiple ransoms being paid, according to local media reports.

In October 2021, 17 members of a US religious organisation were kidnapped and later freed, some after two months in captivity.