A Jesuit monk who was held captive by ISIS for five months in 2015, has been consecrated as the next Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Homs.
A Syriac Catholic priest, 53-year-old Fr Jacques Mourad was ordained on Friday, accompanied by dozens of other church leaders from the area.
Pope Francis had already approved the choice of Fr Mourad, who was kidnapped on 21 May 2015 by jihadists while living in the Mar Elian monastery in Qaryatayn, Syria and held captive for five months.
Fr Mourad recounted the story of his kidnapping in the book “A monk held hostage: A jihadist prisoner’s struggle for peace”, written together with journalist Amaury Guillem.
After the kidnapping, he lived in Mar Elian’s sister monasteries of Cori (Italy) and Sulaymanyah (Iraq). Upon returning to Syria in 2020, he served as deputy superior and bursar of the Mar Elian community.
The Syriac Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome and has approximately 175,000 faithful in the Middle East and in the diaspora.
In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Jacques expressed his desire to prioritise the “renewal of theological and biblical education” of priests and to assist families in “living with dignity.”
He also praised the “practical ecumenism” in the region, highlighting how the different denominations work together “beautifully.”
Fr Jacques, who is a prominent advocate of Christian-Muslim dialogue, plans to continue his efforts to promote interfaith understanding in the region.
He considers the time he spent as a hostage of jihadist terrorists in Syria a spiritual experience. The Rosary and the teachings of Paolo Dall’Oglio, he says, gave him strength and serenity.
Of those days of violence, harassment, deprivation, psychological and physical torture, Father Jacques remembers above all the moment he was transferred to a prison near Palmyra, after the first three months of captivity in Raqqa. There, he met 250 Christians from his community.
He was told that they would be taken back to Qaryatayn, that they would be subjected to a series of heavy prohibitions, but would be able to celebrate Mass again because they had not fought against Muslims.
The Western Asia country has been plagued by a civil war for the last ten years, and more recently, it experienced thousands of casualties following a massive earthquake.