A Syrian priest, whose appointment as archbishop was confirmed by Pope Francis on Jan. 7, shared the difficult times he spent being held hostage by the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group and the importance of the “spirit of forgiveness.”
In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Father Jacques Mourad, elected archbishop of Homs, Syria, by the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Antioch of the Syrians, Eastern-rite Catholics in communion with Rome, recalled that when he was kidnapped by ISIS along with a postulant from his congregation, the jihadists were trying to “convert us to Islam.”
However, despite the risk of death, he recalled in that situation how other Christians “had the courage and enthusiasm to respond in order to testify to their faith.”
Despite the danger our lives were in, he stressed, “we are disciples of Jesus crucified and risen.”
It was precisely under these conditions, he noted, that he learned “a magnificent example of forgiveness.”
“One of the jihadists condemned me to death, put a knife to my neck, and threatened me,” he said.
“I didn’t feel anger, nor hatred, nor any feeling of violence against him,” Mourad said, and acknowledged that “I was surprised myself, because normally if someone hits me in the face, it’s normal to return the blow to his face, but in that moment I didn’t feel any ill feeling against him.”
The new archbishop was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists on March 21, 2015, when an armed group entered the Mar Elian Monastery in Syria and took him away along with a postulant from his congregation.
Archbishop-elect Mourad said that his captors are “in my prayers” every day.
“I ask forgiveness for them and I continue to, because normally it is God who gives this grace of forgiveness and absolution of all sins,” he said.