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
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
"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
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
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.)