Father Jacques Mourad, a Syrian Catholic monk who was kidnapped in Syria by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in 2015 and managed to escape after five months in captivity, was consecrated as the new archbishop of Homs, Syria. At the March 3 Mass for the episcopal consecration, Bishop Flavien Rami Al-Kabalan, procurator of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch to the Holy See, noted that the new archbishop “has placed his life in the hands of the Lord,” according to the Vatican agency Fides.
Al-Kabalan stressed that God chose the new archbishop “to be the spiritual father who sanctifies souls with the sacraments of salvation and guides everyone in prayer and fasting, the patient and loving brother, the wise and understanding teacher.” Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan celebrated the Mass. Also in attendance were Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Syria; Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Yoseph Absi; Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatios Aphrem II, and dozens of bishops.
Faithful made the journey to the Syrian cathedral dedicated to the Holy Spirit from countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as all the regions of Syria. Al-Kabalan also noted at the Mass that the wounds of the civil war have been aggravated by the recent earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria and that seriously affected Aleppo, Mourad’s hometown.
“In these trials, the baptized are led to recognize that they are in exile, because our homeland is heaven,” Al-Kabalan said, adding that God is always with his children.
The attending hierarchy also highlighted the “special humility and generosity” of the new archbishop of Homs, the spiritual son of the Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall’Oglio, founder of the Deir Mar Musa monastic community. Dall’Oglio disappeared in late July 2013 when he was in Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State in Syria at the time, seeking the release of two Orthodox bishops.
Kidnapped by the Islamic State
In May 2015, masked Islamic State militants broke into the Mar Elian Monastery in Syria and kidnapped Mourad. On several occasions during his captivity, a masked man threatened him with a knife to his throat.
His captors moved him several times, the last being to Qaryatayn, also in Syria. “I was in that city for 39 days, but on the 40th day I decided to escape with the help of a young Muslim man,” Mourad explained.
During the more than five months that he was held captive, Mourad could have easily been set free; all he had to do was renounce Christianity. However, in each and every one of the days of captivity, he chose to remain steadfastly faithful to Christ.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
By Walter Sanchez Silva