In the days since, this story has become somewhat confused in online news reporting and social media with some speculation that the event did not even happen and even worse, horrible rumors, that Fr. François had been beheaded.
To clarify, here is what we actually know. Sadly, the heart of this report is true. On Sunday, June 23, Fr. François was killed in the violence that has been rocking that region for months. It appears as though the initial reports that he was shot are correct. There has been no confirmation of the more horrible accounts of beheading.
Where things became confused appears to have happened when the Franciscans of the Holy Land offered a statement to say that no Franciscans had been killed in the violence there. Some took this to mean that the death of Fr. François was a false report. However, Fr. François is not a Franciscan. So, Fr. François was killed, but no other Franciscans were killed in that violence.
Father François, 49, had at one point in his life taken the first steps in religious life making his novitiate with the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. However, he did not continue in religious life and instead eventually became ordained as a diocesan priest. He always remained close to the Franciscans though and with shared close bonds of spiritual friendship.
After being ordained a priest he had started the construction of a coenobitic monastery dedicated to St. Simon Stylites in the village of Gassanieh. After the start of the Civil War, the monastery of St. Simon had been bombed and Fr. François had moved to the convent of the Custody for safety reasons and to give support to the remaining few, along with another religious and nuns of the Rosary.
"Let us pray," writes the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, "so that this absurd and shameful war ends soon and that the people of Syria can go back to living a normal life."
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis reported to Fides news service, "The whole story of Christians in the Middle East is marked and made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs of many persecutions. Lately, Father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world."
"Father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world."
- Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo
Syrian Catholic Archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis