In a statement released today, the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches mourned the death of a Syrian monk killed in the raid of a mostly Christian village by rebel forces. The prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, extended condolences “to the Syro-Catholic Church, with the Patriarch SB Ignace Youssef III Younan, the Custody of the Holy Land and all the faithful of the beloved nation.”
Calling the June 23 killing of Father Franҫois Mourad an “episode of unjustified violence,” Cardinal Sandri said he hoped the incident would “arouse the conscience of the leaders of the conflicting parties and the international community, so that, as repeatedly stated by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the guns of war be silenced and a season of justice and reconciliation begun for a future of peace.”
Asia News has more details on the killing of Father Mourad, most of which come from Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Franciscans in the Middle East (also known as the “Custos of the Holy Land”):
Until yesterday, there were two versions of the murder, the first spoke about a stray bullet, the second of an actual attack carried out by Islamist insurgents against the Monastery of St Anthony in al-Ghassaniyah.
“The second is the most reliable version,” Fr Pizzaballa said. “From the photos and the testimony of our religious, the rebels attacked the village in past few weeks, forcing most residents to flee.”
The Monastery of St Anthony was the only safe haven, where Fr Franҫois lived along with some Franciscan friars, four nuns and ten lay Christians. But on Sunday, rebels part of a fringe extremist Islamic group, stormed that place too.
According to the Custos of the Holy Land, Islamists broke into the convent, looted it and destroyed everything. When Fr Franҫois tried to defend the nuns and other people, the gunmen shot him dead.
Father Mourad was 49 years old.
Feeling called to a more contemplative life at the end of the 90s, he left the Franciscans to complete his studies with the Trappists of Latrun (Palestine).
Once back in Syria, he was ordained priest by the Syriac Catholic bishop of Al-Hasakah on the Syrian side of the Al-Jazira region.
In recent years, he launched a new monastic foundation, inspired by Saint Simon and founded a small monastery of contemplative life in Hwar, Aleppo province, devoting himself to the training of some young postulants, all Syrians.
He was in Hwar until this year when fighting between Islamic rebels and regime forced him to take refuge in al-Ghassaniyah, on the Orontes River, guest of the local Franciscan monastery.
Until his death, he worked together with the friars to bring relief to the Christian and Muslim residents of the area.
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