Syria: Jihadi terrorists raid monastery and behead a priest
The Vatican news service has confirmed that on Sunday, June 23 the Syrian priest François Murad was murdered at the St Anthony of Padua convent in the village of Gassanieh, in northern Syria, where he had taken refuge. Graphic video shows that the priest was beheaded, a common practice for centuries among Muslim jihadis when confronted with those who refuse to accept Islam. According to the report, the militants who murdered the priest are linked to Islamist militants known as Jabhat al-Nusra, who are fighting to bring down the government of President Bashr Al-Assad. Father Francois was one of three persons beheaded by the militants with a knife. One of the other victims was also a Christian.
Father François, 49, had once lived in community with the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. After ordination to the priesthood, he continued to share close bonds of spiritual friendship with them. Once he was ordained, he started the construction of a cenobitic monastery dedicated to St. Simon Stylites in the village of Gassanieh. Following the start of the current civil war in Syria two years ago, that monastery was bombed, forcing Father Francois to move to the convent of the Custody for his own safety and to give support to the remaining Franciscan friars and a few nuns.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches mourned the martyrdom of Father Francois. In a June 25 statement, Prefect Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, expressed “the deepest 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.” Cardinal Sandri appealed that “this latest episode of unjustified violence, 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”.
According to the Custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, photographs and eyewitness accounts attested that the village and convent had been under attack from Islamist rebels for the past few weeks, forcing the majority of the population to flee.
According to Fr Pierbattista, the monastery of St. Anthony was the only safe area and that at the time of the attack gave shelter to Fr. Francois, some Franciscan friars, four sisters and ten Christians. He reports that the village is now completely deserted. “Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. That the international community must put a stop to all this.”
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis, told the Fides news service, "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. "
Fr Murad was just one of the many men and women religious putting their faith on the front line in Syria, refusing to abandon the communities they serve, Christian and Muslim. Among them is Fr Hanna, a Franciscan priest, who lives in a small village north of Aleppo that has been subjected to nearly constant warfare between government forces and insurgents. Fr Hanna continues to ring the bell at his convent to mark the hours of the day and as a sign of hope for the whole population. In Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other cities, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd also provide humanitarian aid to the displaced, particularly women and children, bringing clean clothes, food and words of comfort.
A graphic video released by the Muslim terrorists depicted the beheading of Fr Francois at the convent of the Franciscans of the Custody. Armed militants, speaking in heavily accented Arabic, said that the priest was condemned to death for supposedly aiding the Syrian government. Two other persons were also slaughtered by the terrorists. The executioners said that they were thus carrying out the mandates of Allah.
WARNING: The following video is graphic in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.
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