Archbishop Metropolitan Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and newly ordained Bishop Nicodemus Boulaksis, were en route back home when their connecting flight to Cairo was hijacked by a man later identified as Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa.
The hijacker had threatened to detonate a bomb, holding the plane’s crew and passengers hostage, demanding that the plane land in Cyprus. The plane was forced to land at the Larnaca International Airport yesterday morning.
An EgyptAir official later reported the explosives belt the hijacker had allegedly been wearing was fake. Father Gerassimos Venturas, who is, along with Boulaksis, based at the Greek Orthodox Church in Germiston, said he was relieved when he received a phone call late yesterday morning alerting him that they had been released.
“I last spoke to Nicodemus at 2pm, and they were fine. They were just waiting for their flight back home,” said the clergyman. “They obviously experienced some trauma, but we always have faith in God, that He will protect us.”
Venturas told The Citizen Damaskinos and Boulaksis were in Alexandria over the weekend. Boulaksis was ordained Bishop of Alexandria on Sunday.
“We have spoken to the families. They have been reassured and are glad to hear that everyone was safe.” Damaskinos, 59, was ordained Bishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria in 2010, while Boulaksis, 55, has served in the Greek Orthodox Church in South Africa for the past 20 years.
Reacting to the news of the hijacking, Airports Company South Africa spokesperson Colin Naidoo said there may be security changes at South Africa’s international airports, depending on decisions by police and airport authorities.
EgyptAir authorities said no flights had been changed or delayed as a result of the incident.