ASIA/SYRIA - A video and a letter from Father Jacques Murad, the prior of St. Elian kidnapped last May, has been released

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Homs (Agenzia Fides) - The rumors spread regarding the release of Fr. Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian and pastor of the Qaryatayn community, kidnapped last May 21 by unidentified kidnappers, have not yet been confirmed by local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides. The rumors began circulating after the Lebanese Christian television network Noursat TV broadcast a short video in which father Murad expressed reassuring words about his physical condition and his health. But the video does not contain any indication as to the date of its registration. Sources close to the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Homs told Fides that in addition to the video, there is even a letter attributed to Father Jacques, where the Prior of St.Elian invites priests and members of his monastic community to leave the Monastery of Mar Musa because the situation has become dangerous for all Christians in the region. No one is able to confirm the authenticity of the letter and the fact that it was written by the priest under pressure. It is not excluded that the video was steered by those who hold father Jacques in order to condition any negotiations for his release.
Some armed kidnappers abducted and took father Jacques away from the Monastery of Mar Elian on May 21. Also deacon Boutros Hanna was kidnapped. Then, on August 21, a video was released documenting the destruction of the Monastery of Mar Elian by jihadists of the Islamic State.
The ancient Sanctuary of the V century, located on the outskirts of Quaryatayn and entrusted in recent centuries to the Syrian Catholic Church, was refounded by the Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, kidnapped on July 29, 2013 while he was in Raqqa, the Syrian capital for years under the control of the jihadist Islamic State.
During the various phases of the conflict, the city of Qaryatayn was repeatedly conquered by anti-Assad militias and bombed by the Syrian army. Before being kidnapped, Father Jacques Murad had hosted thousands of refugees in the monastery, who came mostly from the nearby city of Qaryatayn, and had ensured their survival with the help of Muslim donors. Fr. Jacques and a Sunni lawyer in the area had also exercised the function of mediators to ensure that the urban center of 35 thousand inhabitants were spared for long periods by armed clashes. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 03/09/2015)