Pope Francis
The pope's remarks were given in front of France's President Emmanuel Macron. AFP

Pope Francis has pled for the release of the hostages abducted while on a bus in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, including six nuns, last week.

The kidnapping took place on Jan. 19 when the armed men hijacked the bus and drove off to an unknown destination, taking all the passengers, as well as the nuns.

After his weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday, the pope said, "I have learned with sorrow of the kidnapping, in Haiti, of a group of people, including six religious sisters," Reuters reported.

"In my heartfelt plea for their release, I pray for social concord in the country, and I invite everyone to bring an end to the violence, which is causing a great deal of suffering to that dear population," he added.

Aside from the pope, Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne in Haiti also condemned the kidnapping and called for an end to "deplorable and criminal practices" in the country.

"This latest odious and barbaric act shows no respect for the dignity of these consecrated women who give themselves wholeheartedly and completely to God to educate and form the young, the poorest, and the most vulnerable of our society," Dumas said, as per Catholic News Agency.

Haiti has seen a surge in violent incidents in the last couple of months as many gangs compete for influence and try to exert pressure on interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The current situation is particularly tense, as a political agreement that strengthened Henry's authority is set to expire on Feb. 7. The power struggle between these gangs and the impending deadline for the political accord has contributed to the increase in violence.

The days-long clash between armed gangs intensified on Jan. 18. According to Pierre Esperance, director of the humanitarian organization National Human Rights Defense Network, at least 20 people have been killed since Jan. 15.

"Among the victims are those who were murdered inside their burnt-out homes, and others who were shot at by bandits as they tried to flee the attacks," he said.

In November 2023, Haiti-based human rights group Center of Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH) temporarily shut down its operations after receiving threats from gang members.

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