Article from AsiaNews.it Catholic media outlet
Fr Pizzaballa (Custos of the Holy Land) talks about the killing of the priest, new martyr in Syria. Franҫois Mourad was killed during an attack by Islamic fighters against the Monastery of St Anthony, in Idlib province. Until his death, the priest had worked with the Franciscans to alleviate the suffering of Christians and Muslims. Now the village stands completely destroyed.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Fr. Franҫois Mourad's killing of is a sad occurrence and a blow to all the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land," said Fr Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, as he spoke with AsiaNews about the Syrian clergyman who died on Sunday in al-Ghassaniyah, a predominantly Christian village in Jisr al-Shughur District, Idlib province. His funeral was celebrated yesterday in the small village of Kanaieh, a few kilometres from where he was killed.
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.
"Right now, the village is completely deserted," Fr Pizzaballa said. "Rebels have moved there with their families and occupied the houses still standing."
"Let us pray that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can get back to a normal life soon," he said.
Hailing from a village in the province of Latakia in northwestern Syria, Fr Franҫois Mourad, 49, was trained by the Franciscan Fathers in the Holy Land.
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. (S.C.)
Original article here.
The following are excerpts of letters sent by Fr. Francis in recent months to Bishop Behnan Hindo, Syriac Catholic Bishop of Hassaké. They show that Fr. Francis was aware of the danger. These letters were sent to the Lebanese Catholic TV channel Télé-Lumière.
Extracts from the letters
First letter of 18 June 2012: "Monsignor," Barekh Mor "(Syriac expression used which means" Bless, O Lord "), we are in danger. We can neither enter nor leave the village. They attacked churches and religious insignia Every day one of us disappears. do not know when my time will come. Anyway, I'm ready to die, and that my church remembers I have offered my life with joy for all Christians of this beloved country. Pray for me. "
Letter dated 20 February 2013:. "Monseigneur," Barekh Mor. " The events rush and I think we have entered a decisive phase of our struggle. After burning the Greek (Byzantine) church and destroyed the Marian shrine of the Latins, ransacked and destroyed everything in my convent and that of Protestants. They smashed and burned all the religious symbols of the village and smeared with blasphemies against our religion. They try to suppress us, but whatever they do, they will have nothing against our faith founded on the Rock of Christ. I wish to God that He may grant us the grace to prove the authenticity of our love for Him and for others. Rest assured that I lay down my life with all my heart for the good of the Church and peace in the world and especially in our beloved Syria. "
Letter dated 17 March 2013: "Monseigneur," Barekh Mor. " The days passed slowly and every day is darker than the previous. The time is coming when we will have to look for a place of refuge from the bombing. At night, try to stay awake for fear of those for whom everything that bears the name of Christian is anathema. Yet, despite all this darkness, I perceive the mysterious presence of the sun. All that I hope to God that His Presence is victorious over the darkness that fans ensure that we get here. Pray for us. "
Fr. Francis Mourad as priest under the obedience of the Syriac Catholic Bishop of Hassaké, Mons. Behnam Hindo, founded the monastery of Saint Simeon Stylites near Ghassaniyah northwest of Aleppo, near the Turkish border. This monastery was inaugurated in August 2010. A few months ago his monastery was invaded and plundered by the Free Syrian Army who took everything - even the doors. Fr. Francis then fled to the Franciscan Monastery of St Anthony in Ghassaniyah.
Fr. Francis was killed by Islamist rebels on Sunday, June 23; he was 49 years of age. He was born in Aleppo the son of Antoine Mourad and Muna Salloum and was one of seven children. On receiving the news of his death it is said that his mother collapsed, she had already lost a son and a daughter and a grand-son had died of cancer about a year ago.
Christian community flee Ghassanieh village
“In the Christian villages along the Orontes [River] there is not much left, of the four thousand inhabitants of the village of Ghassanieh the parish priest has informed me that there is no longer anyone, only about ten people, and the empty houses have been occupied by the families of the rebels who are following along with them.”
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
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