Jacques Mourad has been consecrated as Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Syria.
The 54-year old was ordained on Friday, in a ceremony attended by crowds of well-wishers, as well as several dozen priests and bishops, and the Patriarchs of various Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the region.
Archbishop Mourad, who was a monk of Mar Musa Monastery in Syria for many years before he was kidnapped by Islamic State terrorists, is well-known as an advocate of Christian-Muslim dialogue.
In an interview with Asia News, Archbishop Mourad noted that the situation in his diocese, which has suffered from many years of war, violence, and economic instability, is a “complex” one.
Despite this, however, the Archbishop struck an optimistic note, saying that “most” Christians in the area, predominantly farmers with “a deep bond with their land”, have remained. He also expressed gratitude for the priests of his diocese, who are “young, and make a great contribution to the mission”, saying that they worked together “with a spirit of synodality.”
Finally, Archbishop Mourad also praised the “practical ecumenism” of the region, noting that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants work together “beautifully”.
The prelate said that among his priorities as Archbishop would be “renewing the theological and biblical education” of priests, and helping families to “live with dignity”, at a time when the pressure of poverty is “unbearable.”
Before his consecration, Archbishop Mourad was for many years a monk of Mar Musa Monastery in Syria, a religious community founded by the Italian Jesuit Paolo dall’Oglio and dedicated to dialogue between Christians and Muslims. In an interview with Vatican News in 2019, the Archbishop discussed this dedication to dialogue in more depth.
“Trusting in dialogue is a principle”, he said. “It is not tied to the attitude of others. Moreover, we Syrian Christians have lived alongside Muslims for more than 1400 years. We have a history of living life in common with them”.
“Behind current terrorism,” the Archbishop continued, “there is a political network that uses everything to do evil. It is not a network inspired directly by Islam, but by a political project … As Christians we must stop this way of thinking, inspired by certain propaganda, according to which every Muslim is a terrorist.”
Speaking to Asia News, Mourad said that, as Archbishop, he would use his experience in interreligious dialogue to inform his work in his new diocese.
His role, he said, was to cultivate as Archbishop the seeds that he had planted as a monk at Mar Musa, seeds of “openness, hospitality, and prayer”.