Outrage Over Syrian Rebels Assaulting Monastery, Killing Hermit


A revered Syrian monk and hermit, Father Franҫois Mourad, has been killed during an assault of the Franciscan monastery in a predominantly Christian village in the north near the Turkish border, Vatican Radio reported.

The circumstances surrounding Mourad’s death in the monastery of St. Anthony of Padua, about 70 miles from Syria’s largest city Aleppo, remain unclear.

It’s believed that Maroud was shot dead when tried to defend several religious sisters from the rebels when the monastery that gave them shelter was attacked and pillaged on June 23.

In a statement issued earlier this week the Prefect Cardinal Leonardo Sandri said that “this latest episode of unjustified violence, arouse the conscience of the leaders of the conflicting parties and the international community, so that, as repeatedly stated by the Holy Father Pope Francis, the guns of war be silenced and a season of justice and reconciliation begun for a future of peace.”

After the outbreak of the war in Syria, Father François left his hermitage to be with a friar in fragile health and to serve a neighboring community of religious sisters, Vatican Radio reported.

The head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told Vatican Radio that Mourad was not a Franciscan, but had to take refuge in the convent after it became clear he was not safe at the Syriac Catholic hermitage that he was building nearby.

According to Father Pizzaballa, the Ghassanieh neighborhood “like other Christian villages, has been almost completely destroyed and is almost totally abandoned,” adding that the only people left there were “the rebels with their families, rebels who are not from Syria and who are extremists.”

“The only thing we can do, other than pray for Father Francois and all the victims, is pray that this folly ends soon and that no more weapons are sent to Syria because that would only prolong this absurd civil war,” Father Pizzaballa suggested.

He described the current situation in Syria as a “battleground, and not just between Syrian forces, but also for other Arab countries and the international community. The ones paying the price are the poor, the small and the least, including the Christians,” according to the Catholic News Service.

“The international community must put the brakes on this,” he noted.

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassake-Nisibi told Fides (the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) that Father Mourad sent him “several messages which showed he was aware of living in a dangerous situation and was willing to offer his life for peace in Syria and the world.”

Killings and abductions have become common in Syria as the country has been locked in a two-year internal conflict. In April, two Orthodox bishops were kidnapped when they returned to Aleppo from the Turkish border. Their driver was killed.

Syria’s 10 percent Christian population is particularly vulnerable to such attacks, especially from the opposition groups, as they have remained largely neutral or supportive of the government.


The Gospel of Tony Soprano

Fr Edward L. Beck writes:

The only time I met James Gandolfini, we talked about God.

It was a chance meeting at the Broadway play “God of Carnage,” in which he was acting. I went backstage to see someone else but was introduced to James.

When he heard that I was a priest he laughed and said, “Gee, Father, I hope you didn’t think this was a play about God.”

“No, I didn’t,” I said, “but I was surprised to find out that it actually was.”

He looked perplexed by my answer, hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Well, we’ll have to talk about that sometime.”

Of course, we never did. It was the first and last time I saw him.

I had, however, seen him many times on television in one of my favorite shows, “The Sopranos.”

Perhaps it’s unwise for a Catholic priest to admit being a “Sopranos” fan, but I confess to having used it more than once as fodder for a Sunday homily. I happen to think it was one of the most spiritual shows on television. Had I told James that, he might have been as surprised as he was by my “God of Carnage” quip…

Read on at CNN.



Anglican Priest Finds Bracelet, Tries To Sell To Owners

How selfish and greedy:

Maybe he thought the Lord said “finders keepers, losers weepers.”

An Australian Anglican priest who found a $6,500 bracelet and tried to sell it back to the owners has been humbled — and perhaps will be defrocked.

After media outcry and shaming from his archbishop boss, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe returned the diamond bracelet to Perth restauranteurs Clyde and Lesley Bevan Wednesday afternoon, Clyde Bevan told The Huffington Post.

The priest didn’t seem embarrassed during the exchange at the clergyman’s house, Bevan said.

But perhaps he should be: After reporting the lost bracelet to police, McAuliffe claimed it as his own and tracked down the owners through the bracelet’s security code. He then offered to return the jewelry to them for 50 percent of the value while the Bevans recover the loss by filing an insurance claim, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The reverend, a former lawyer, told outlets that his discovery was a “gift fallen from the sky.”

“I’m just offering to share the windfall,” he said.

But Wednesday, the only sharing seemed to be scorn for his actions.

“It’s certainly amazing and bizarre behavior,” Bevan said to HuffPost.

The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, told the AAP that McAuliffe’s actions were “reprehensible” and that while the priest may have followed the law by asserting ownership after a few months, people expect more from religious leaders. The archbishop also said discipline could include McAuliffe’s removal from his post at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

Bevan, who runs a restaurant called Friends with his wife, said Lesley happily wore the bracelet, which he gave to her as a birthday gift eight years ago. He thanked the press.

“If it wasn’t for the media asking probing questions and basically chasing him down the street with cameras, it wouldn’t have happened,” he explained.

He said that McAuliffe’s actions didn’t dim his view of the clergy. He explained that other priests had taken up a collection to pay the reverend for the bracelet in case he didn’t give it back.

“It restores my faith,” Bevan said.

‘Fallen from the sky’?!

The West Australian also has the story.



Lesbian Minister vs Church

She worked at the Methodist Church across the road from our Parish. The Post reports:

The Western Cape High Court dismissed lesbian minister Ecclesia de Lange’s case against the Methodist Church of SA (MCSA) on Wednesday with costs, the church said.

“… The judge declared the application by De Lange premature and that she should first submit to arbitration,” the MCSA said in a statement.

De Lange reportedly claimed she had been unfairly dismissed from  her ministry because of her sexual orientation, after she told her congregation in December 2009 that she was going to marry her female partner.

She was ordained in 2006 and married her partner on December 15, 2009.

She has since divorced the woman and is set to marry again.

Her lawyers told the court last month that she married a woman before the church had taken a decision on gay marriage.

The church had been deliberating on gay marriage for 13 years and had still not taken a decision.

Lawyers for the church reportedly said De Lange, 43, had broken a church rule which stipulated that “no positive steps toward same-sex unions be taken pending further determination”.

Her decision to wed was seen as “an attempt to impose her religious and doctrinal views on the church and its members”.

Ziphozihle Siwa, the presiding bishop of the MCSA, said the church welcomed Wednesday’s judgment.

“… The church will continue to be in prayer and conversation over this issue as we encourage life-giving interaction and dialogue.

“We continue to accept and offer pastoral care to everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation,” Siwa said.



Five Practical Lessons for Discipleship


This begins the section of Luke’s Gospel known as the “Travel Narrative”. In this section, Jesus and his disciples journey to Jerusalem where redemption will occur and the Church will be born. St. Luke uses nearly 10 chapters (9:51-19:27) to record the journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them.  These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative.

Check them out here.


Bible Archaeology

Roman Road Found in Jerusalem

The road led from Joppa to Jerusalem. The Times of Israel reports:

Archaeologists in Jerusalem uncovered an especially well preserved section of an ancient Roman road that once ran all the way to Jaffa, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed on Tuesday.

The road section was found by the IAA during a dig in Beit Hanina, an Arab section in northeast Jerusalem. The excavation was performed prior to the installation of a drainage pipe in the area.

Excavation director David Yeger said the road section was the finest preserved section yet discovered in Jerusalem of what was once a major artery running from the coast to the heart of Judean hill country.

The road itself was around 8 meters wide, constructed of well worn flat stones and bounded by a curb, also made of stone. The road section showed signs of heavy use and also of several repairs.

More here with a map.

The IAA press release proper, is available here.