Catholic priest executed in Syria monastery attack

Catholic priest executed in Syria monastery attack

A Syrian Catholic priest has been publicly executed by rebels at a monastery in the northern Syria, the Vatican says, BBC reported.

Father Francois Murad, 49, was beheaded on 23 June when militants attacked the convent where he was staying.

The Vatican news agency said the circumstances of the killing were not fully clear.

But local sources said the attackers were linked to the jihadist group known as al-Nusra Front.

Unconfirmed video footage claiming to show the priest's death, together with that of two other unidentified people, has been posted on Catholic websites.

Father Murad had moved to the convent in the area of Gassanieh for safety reasons, the Vatican said.

He was a member of the Franciscan order, the official custodian of Christian sites in the Middle East.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of Franciscans in the region, said Syria had now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces but also between Arab countries and the international community.

"Let us pray so that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life," he said.

Correspondents say many of Syria's ethnic and religious minorities are being drawn into the conflict as the fighting intensifies and becomes more sectarian in nature.

Gunmen in northern Syria abducted two Orthodox Christian bishops in April as they travelled from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

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