Vatican confirms Catholic priest beheaded by Syrian rebels

On Sunday, the Vatican confirmed that Islamic rebel forces fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria had beheaded a Roman Catholic priest.

Syria-Catholic-Priest-Francois-Murad
Father Francois Murad. martyred on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Jabhat al-Nusra forces accused Father Francois Murad, a Franciscan priest serving in a Northern Syrian monastery, of collaborating with with the Assad regime and summarily executed him, according to Catholic Online.

Father Murad was murdered along with another individual, as yet unnamed, as a crowd of onlookers comprised of of men and boys cheered and took photographs with smartphones. The actual beheadings were not performed swiftly with a sword as one from the West imagines. The executioner used what appeared to be an ordinary kitchen knife, according to The Blaze.

A video of the execution is available through LiveLeak, together with warnings of the graphic nature of the video. I chose not to watch.

The Vatican press release reads:

On Sunday, June 23 the Syrian priest François Murad was killed in Gassanieh, in northern Syria, in the convent of the Custody of the Holy Land where he had taken refuge. This is confirmed by a statement of the Custos of the Holy Land sent to Fides Agency. The circumstances of the death are not fully understood. According to local sources, the monastery where Fr. Murad was staying was attacked by militants linked to the jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra.

Father François, 49, had taken the first steps in the religious life with the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, and with them he continued to share close bonds of spiritual friendship. After being ordained a priest he had started the construction of a coenobitic monastery dedicated to St. Simon Stylites in the village of Gassanieh.After the start of the Civil War, the monastery of St. Simon had been bombed and Fr. Murad had moved to the convent of the Custody for safety reasons and to give support to the remaining few, along with another religious and nuns of the Rosary.

In mid-June, the United States announced that it began supplying direct military aid to Syrian rebel forces in the form of small arms, notwithstanding the fact that of the 9 key rebel forces operating in Syria, 7 are considered Islamic extremists to varying degrees. The most effective of these forces is also the most extremist — the al-Qaida-backed Jabhat al-Nusra.

Catholic Online issued the following warning.

This should make it clear to Christians around the world what jihadists are about. Make no mistake. Catholics and Christians around the globe are under dire threat, particularly from the spread of militant Islam. Until the threat is recognized and taken seriously, martyrdoms like this will continue.

I can’t add a single thing to that other than to say, rest in peace, Father Murad. Rest with the angels.

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