As TheBlaze reported last week, Murad, 49, was setting up a monastery in Gassanieh, northern Syria. Last Sunday, on the Christian leader’s Sabbath, extremist militants trying to topple President Bashar Assad breached the monastery and grabbed Murad.

While earlier reports suggested Murad may have been shot to death, Catholic Online reported Saturday: “The Vatican is confirming the death by beheading of Franciscan Father, Francois Murad, who was martyred by Syrian jihadists on June 23.”

Catholic Priest Beheaded in Syria by Al Qaeda Linked Rebels as Men and Children Cheer on and Take Pictures

Syrian Catholic priest Francois Murad (Photo courtesy: Syria Report)

The Catholic news service quotes local sources who report that the radical Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, was behind the savage killing.

In video posted by Live Leak purporting to show the execution, dozens of men and boys are seen cheering on as three men are seated on the ground awaiting their grisly fate.

The men are methodically beheaded one at a time by men holding what appears to be a simple kitchen knife after which the heads are placed on top of the bodies.

According to Catholic Online, the first victim was Murad.

A frenzy ensues, with dozens drawing out their smartphones to capture the bloody scene, as a chorus of Allahu Akbar (“Allah is the greatest”) are sung with jihadi rapture. Several observers are seen moving within inches of the bodies in an effort to capture close-up photos.

Catholic Priest Beheaded in Syria by Al Qaeda Linked Rebels as Men and Children Cheer on and Take Pictures

Men are poised with cameras waiting to capture photos of beheading scene in Syria, as frenzied shouts of Allahu Akbar are heard (Screenshot: Live Leak)

Catholic Online is raising alarm that western nations are providing support to the rebels who have shown a proclivity toward persecuting Christians:

This should make it clear to Christians around the world what jihadists are about. Make no mistake. Catholics and [other] Christians around the globe are under dire threat, particularly from the spread of militant Islam. Until the threat is recognized and taken seriously, martyrdoms like this will continue.

Vatican Radio reports that Gassanieh, a village with a majority Christian population, had been under attack by Islamist fighters for the past few weeks, forcing most residents to flee for safety.

It quotes Custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa who says, “Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. That the international community must put a stop to all this”.

Pizzaballa told the Vatican News Agency, “The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.

“With such stances, not a single Christian will remain in the East,” he added.

Vatican Radio writes, “Fr. Mourad was just one of the many men and women religious putting their faith on the front line in Syria, refusing to abandon the communities they serve, Christian and Muslim. They stay because they want to be a sign of hope, light and comfort to people in the midst of destruction.”

TheBlaze chose not to post the video purporting to show Father Murad’s murder. It can be viewed here, but please be warned it is extremely graphic and disturbing.


The video is no longer available.


Another version, but older, of this tragedy from Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – “Fr. Franҫois Mourad’s killing of is a sad occurrence and a blow to all the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land,” said Fr Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, as he spoke with AsiaNews about the Syrian clergyman who died on Sunday in al-Ghassaniyah, a predominantly Christian village in Jisr al-Shughur District, Idlib province. His funeral was celebrated yesterday in the small village of Kanaieh, a few kilometres from where he was killed.

Until yesterday, there were two versions of the murder, the first spoke about a stray bullet, the second of an actual attack carried out by Islamist insurgents against the Monastery of St Anthony in al-Ghassaniyah.

“The second is the most reliable version,” Fr Pizzaballa said. “From the photos and the testimony of our religious, the rebels attacked the village in past few weeks, forcing most residents to flee.”

The Monastery of St Anthony was the only safe haven, where Fr Franҫois lived along with some Franciscan friars, four nuns and ten lay Christians. But on Sunday, rebels part of a fringe extremist Islamic group, stormed that place too.”

According to the Custos of the Holy Land, Islamists broke into the convent, looted it and destroyed everything. When Fr Franҫois tried to defend the nuns and other people, the gunmen shot him dead.

26 June 2013