UPDATE: Franciscans Deny Priests Killed in Syria: “The Monks Are Still Alive”

Note: I’ve removed an earlier report from this blog indicating that the Vatican had confirmed Fr. Francois Murad’s execution.  Details are just too sketchy.

A colleague forwarded this brief news item to me, dated late Friday:

In a statement to the religious information service SIR, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa has said the news reported by Radio France Internationale on the alleged beheading of three Franciscan monks in Syria is false.

”The monks in the region are all still alive,” said the Custos of the Holy Land. On June 24 Father Francois, ”a Catholic hermit”, had been reported dead.

The Franciscan missionaries have also placed a statement on their website:

The Custody denies news stories that claim that three Franciscan friars have been killed in Syria in the last forty-eight hours.

The Custody keeps itself as informed as circumstances allow of the events in Syria and of the news of its friars who are still present there. Having received news today, Friday the 28th of June, at noon it vigorously denies these stories.

The Custody once again strongly urges prayer and asks that all the decision makers work together toward a complete cease fire.

Stay tuned.