On Sunday, the Vatican confirmed that Father François Murad was killed by Syrian rebel forces after a video showing the Catholic priest being beheaded by jihadists was posted online.
According to the report from Catholic Online, 49-year-old Father Murad was beheaded June 23 in the northern Syrian locality of Gassanieh, where he had been setting up a monastery, by Jabhat al-Nusra forces who accused the Franciscan priest of working with the Assad regime.
An extremely graphic video from Live Leak reposted by Catholic Online showed amateur footage of Father Murad’s execution by beheading while dozens of men watched and chanted. In the video, a man believed to be Father Murad is first seen sitting with his hands bound before being beheaded with a simple kitchen knife. Onlookers chanting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) can be seen in the footage photographing and capturing video of the bloody scene. The video can be viewed here at Live Leak. (Warning: The video contains graphic content of the beheading.)
Catholic Online reported that Father Murad was murdered because the jihadi group believed he had been working with Syrian President Bashar Assad, though the Vatican did not confirm this report. The Catholic Church did, however, confirm the death of Father Murad by al-Qaida-backed militants in Gassanieh.
The Vatican issued the following statement to Catholic.org regarding the beheading of Father Murad.
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“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.”
Vatican Radio reported that the mostly Christian village in the province of Idlib has been under attack by Islamist rebels for the past few weeks. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa told the news agency that the monastery of St. Anthony, which was “the only safe area” for Murad and several other Christians, was attacked when Father Murad tried to resist the militants.
“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces but also between Arab countries and the international community,” he said. “And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this.”