(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches is mourning the brutal
murder of Fr Franҫois Mourad, a Syrian monk. In a statement issued Tuesday the Prefect
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, expresses “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 appeals 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, the monk was killed June 23 last during a raid on the Franciscan monastery of St Anthony of Padua in Ghassanieh, a predominantly Christian village in the district of Jisr al-Shughur in the province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey.
Fr Pizzaballa says that from the photos and eye witness accounts of the monastery’s religious the village had been under attack from Islamist rebels for the past few weeks, forcing the majority of the population to flee.
He says the monastery of St. Anthony was the only safe area and that at the time of the attack gave shelter to Fr. Franҫois, some Franciscan friars, four sisters and ten Christians. When Fr. Franҫois tried to oppose resistance to defend the nuns and other people, the guerrillas shot him, killing him.
Fr. Pizzaballa 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”.
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.
Mons. Kozar is President of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). Speaking to Emer McCarthy he described how at their recent meeting here at the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Reunion of Aid Agencies for Oriental Churches (ROACO) heard from representatives of this silent network that stretches across Syria.
Among them Franciscan priest, Fr. Hanna. He lives in a small village north of Aleppo the scene of a constant tug of war between government forces and rebels He spoke of how he rings the bell 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 continuous assistance to the displaced, particularly women and children in distress, bringing clean clothes, food and words of comfort.
“More than money these people need our support” said Mons. Kozar. “They need us to lobby our governments, our Congressmen our representatives to put an end to this war now!” Listen: