Priest beheaded in Syria

Mon 01 Jul 2013
By Administrator User

Father Francois Murad was attacked by extremists at the monastery he was staying in after they accused him of collaborating with the Assad regime.

The Vatican has confirmed a Catholic priest has been beheaded in Syria.

Father Francois Murad was attacked by extremists at the monastery he was staying in after they accused him of collaborating with the Assad regime.

Footage purported to show the 49-year-old's gruesome death has been posted on the internet.

He had been killed last week but details surrounding the death are only just emerging.

The Vatican news website reported that on Sunday, June 23, the Syrian priest Francois Murad was killed in Gassanieh, in northern Syria, in the convent of the Custody of the Holy Land where he had taken refuge. This is confirmed by a statement of the Custos of the Holy Land sent to Fides Agency.

According to local sources, the monastery where Fr. Murad was staying was attacked by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra. In the video, filmed on a camera phone, three men - including Fr Murad - are seen sitting on the dusty ground as a crowd around them cheers. The priest, wearing a brown robe, is filmed sitting cross-legged with his hands apparently bound. He is pulled forward and laid face down on the grass as the crowd chant 'Allahu akbar' and take photos. He is then decapitated, using what looks like a rudimentary kitchen knife. Dozens of camera phones are shoved forward by the baying crowd as the scene turns more bloody. John Newton from Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need tells Premier it's horrific news:

"It was only this morning that we were made aware of the way in which he died.

"Naturally we were absolutely horrified to see a man of God, a man of prayer, who had been trying to live out a religious vocation praying for the whole of the country and for peace, being singled out for his Christian faith and being beheaded publically as people chant religious slogans. It's horrifying."

Fr. Murad had taken the first steps in the religious life with the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. After being ordained a priest he had started the construction of a coenobitic monastery dedicated to St. Simon Stylites in the village of Gassanieh. After the start of the Civil War, the monastery of St. Simon had been bombed and Fr. Murad had moved to the convent of the Custody for safety reasons and to give support to the remaining few, along with another religious and nuns of the Rosary.

Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis reports to Fides:

"The whole story of Christians in the Middle East is marked and made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs of many persecutions.

"Lately, Father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world."

Aid to the Church in Need is also urging Christians to remember and pray for the safe release of kidnapped archbishops and priests in Syria. Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazaji, both of Aleppo in Syria, were kidnapped by armed men in April 2013.

A statement from the Syrian Orthodox Church said Archbishop Ibrahim had been returning from an attempt to negotiate the release of two priests who had been taken hostage. Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib of Alexandria, Egypt has written this prayer:

God, Our Father, have mercy on the Middle East. Your faithful servants – young and old alike – are called to witness to Christ. May they be strengthened during this time of turmoil as they seek to follow your beloved Son, who Himself walked their ancient homelands. In union with Frances, our Pope, we pray that Christians in the Middle East may be enabled to live their Faith in full freedom. Embolden them to act as instruments of peace and reconciliation, united with all the citizens of their countries.

Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen

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