Syria, Father François Mourad is killed in a Franciscan monastery

Giacomo Pizzi25 June 2013

“When Father F. arrived to the monastery he found the frightened sisters, and the murdered friar on the ground.” Father François Mourad died yesterday in Ghassanieh, in Syria, inside a Franciscan monastery where he had sought refuge some time ago. The circumstances of his death are still not very clear. According to one version a bullet entered the monastery and struck the priest, while other sources maintain that the homicide took place while the monastery was being looted by rebels.

Father François was born in Syria and was well known in the region. He completed his postulancy at the Custody of the Holy Land in Rome in 1990 and went to Bethlehem for the first year of philosophy. In 1992, wishing to dedicate himself to a more contemplative life, he left the Franciscan Order to enter the Trappist monastery in Latrun. After a short time he left this to return to Syria. “He often came to the monastery”, we learn from the Friars Minor, “and replaced the friars when they were absent.” With the outbreak of the war he decided to return to the monastery for safety reasons, in order to support himself and those few who remained, along with Father Filippo and the Sisters of the Rosary.

It was in the monastery itself, where he felt himself to be most safe, that he was killed. In the letter that Father Halim, the head of the St. Paul Region, sent to the brothers in Jerusalem, he issued an appeal to the West not to aid the anti-Assad rebels who are supporting the religious extremists that are responsible for a number of attacks against the Christian minority.

“Otherwise”, he concluded, “there will be no Christians left in Syria.” Those who are living these dramatic hours are also certain of this. From Jerusalem the Custos has issued a call to celebrate requiem masses. “Let us pray”, Father Pizzaballa wrote, “that this absurd and shameful war will soon be over and that the people of Syria will soon be able to return to their normal lives.”