DAMASCUS, January 18. /TASS/. Nuns have returned to the ancient Orthodox Monastery of Saint Thecla in Maaloula, a Syrian town some 50 km north of Damascus which has been freed from terrorists and is now being rebuilt, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch said.
"The nuns have returned to the monastery and stay there now," Patriarch of Antioch and All East John X said at a meeting with a delegation of Russian lawmakers. "Thanks to the resumption of monastic life, about 290 families have returned to Maaloula, and now 300 families live there."
Built into the rugged mountainside at an altitude of more than 1500 m, Maaloula is famed as being one of the last three villages in the world where Aramaic - the language of Jesus Christ - is still spoken. The town also houses two ancient monasteries: the Eastern Catholic monastery of Saint Sarkis and the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Thecla.
A group of 16 Saint Thecla nuns was taken hostage by terrorists from the Jabhat Al-Nusra group (outlawed in Russia) in December 2013. They spent three months in captivity and were released as a result of a prisoner swap deal with the militants.