A reader writes:
A friend brought your blog post of 1 July 2013 to my attention (UPDATE: Franciscans Deny Priests Killed in Syria: “The Monks Are Still Alive”), and I wanted to write to you concerning your interpretation of the Custos’ press releases. I used to live in the Latin Patriarchate, so I am familiar with the Custody and their manner of communication.
The official language of the Patriarchate is French. The official language of the Custody is Italian. I am fluent in both languages. The Custody’s various news articles have some details concerning Père Mourad’s death 23 June are still posted in French and Italian. And, two of their websites have a video in French produced by Franciscan Media Center covering the Mass at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem where the Custos, Père Pizzaballa, specifically requested prayers for the repose of the soul of Père François Mourad and peace in Syria. The other Custody websites – they have several – have news stories about, and tributes to, Père Mourad and his ministry in Syria.
The news item “Custody Denies Death of Three Friars” http://fr.custodia.org/default.asp?id=1019&id_n=23591&Pagina=1 is dated 28 June and appears only in English; and as you know, it states that “The Custody denies news stories that claim that three Franciscan friars have been killed in Syria in the last forty-eight hours.” Forty-eight hours prior to 28 June – even 27 June – still would not constitute a denial of the death of Père François; rather, it would simply state that no friars had perished since his tragic murder.
Therefore, I would like to suggest to you that you may trust the word of the Franciscan Custody, that Père François Mourad indeed has died. I enclose links for your perusal. God reward you!
Deborrah Thurston OCDS
The Franciscans’ website, meantime, has the following post:
On Sunday the 23rd of June, the sad news came from Syria: Father François Mourad was killed in the Custody’s monastery, where he had come to seek refuge and offer his assistance. The conditions of his death are not clear. He was apparently alone in the monastery when it was completely pillaged.
Father François was well known in this region to which he retired several years ago to live as a hermit. After completing his novitiate in Rome as a Franciscan of the Custody, he heard a more urgent call from the Lord to lead a contemplative life. He followed this call in Syria, of which he as a citizen. His relationship with the Custody remained strong and he came regularly to one of its monasteries or another to help by replacing an absent friar. “He was always a bit ‘one of us’,” in the words of the Father Custos…
…The death of Father François is a terrible blow for all the friars. Even so, they continue to be a great spiritual comfort to the people they serve. “War has a negative impact everywhere and on everyone, but it has also brought Christians of all rites closer together for mutual aid and prayer in common.” In some villages of the Orontes region, where the Franciscans are the only clergy who remain, they celebrate the sacraments for all the rites. In other places, they organize times of prayer that everyone attends.
“Our role,” says a friar living in the Orontes region “is to be God’s fools who continue to bring hope to everyone who thinks that there is no future, that there is no hope, no charity.”