Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches mourned the murder of Fr. Francois Mourad, a monk who lived in Syria.
According to Fides News Agency, Fr. Mourad was killed in the convent of the Custody of the Holy Land where he had taken refuge. While the circumstances of his death are not confirmed, local sources believe that the monastery of St. Anthony of Padua where he was residing was attacked by militants linked to an Islamic extremist group known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The monastery is located in Ghassanieh, a predominantly Christian village that is near the border with Turkey.
Regarding Fr. Mourad’s death, Cardinal Sandri stated 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”.
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, Custos of the Holy Land also mourned the death of the Syrian monk, who began his religious life with the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land.
In a report by Vatican Radio, Fr. Pizzaballa claimed that photos and eyewitness accounts showed that the village had been under attack for weeks from Islamic militants. Fr. Francois, several Franciscan friars, four sisters and ten Christians fled to the monastery seeking refuge from the violence. Fr. Mourad, he continued, was killed by the militants when he tried to oppose resistance to defend the nuns and and several other people.
“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,” Fr. Pizzaballa said. “The international community must put a stop to all this.”
Fr. Mourad 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. They stay because they want to be a sign of hope, light and comfort to people in the midst of destruction.
“Let us pray so that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life,” Fr. Pizzaballa said.