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Qamishli, Syria (Agenzia Fides) – The funeral of an Armenian Catholic priest, Hovsep Hanna Petoyan [also known as Father Hanna Bidu], and his father, Hanna Petoyan, took place this morning in Qamishli. The two were attacked and killed on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019 by unidentified gunmen as they traveled southbound from Hasaka province to Deir ez-Zor, in the north-east of Syria. Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo told Agenzia Fides Boutros Marayati,
“For us they are martyrs. And what happened to them is a confirmation that the war is not over here, as we had hoped”.
The funerals of the priest and his father were celebrated in the Armenian Catholic Church of St. Joseph, in the presence of priests, religious, and faithful of all the Christian communities present in the area. Father Antranig Ayvazian, Episcopal Vicar of the Armenian Catholic community of Upper Mesopotamia and northern Syria presided over the funeral liturgy.
Father Hovsep, 46, was married and a father of three children, ordained a priest 5 years ago, was the priest of the Armenian Catholic community of Qamishli, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. Archbishop Marayati to Fides,
“In the city of Qamishli, many Christian refugees also fled from Deir ez-Zor, when that city was devastated by war. He also carried out his pastoral work among them, and for a long time he also followed the projects implemented with the help of international groups to rebuild the church and the houses of the Christians in Deir ez Zor, destroyed by the war. For this reason he went to Deir ez Zor every two weeks to check the progress of the work. He had already carried out six trips to that city so dear to the memory of the Armenians, where there is the shrine of the martyrs of the genocide, also devastated during the conflict”.
At the time of the ambush, the priest and his father were travelling together with an Armenian deacon – wounded during the assault – and another person. The two killers had their faces covered and fled after the ambush. The priest’s father died immediately. Father Hovsep, wounded in the chest, was brought to a clinic in Deir ez Zor and then transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Hassakè, where he arrived already lifeless.
The city of Deir ez Zor is controlled by the Syrian army, but in the area there are also Kurdish forces and US military still operating. In the sub-district of al-Busayrah, an area where the ambush occurred, armed groups affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh) are also concentrated, who yesterday claimed responsibility for the gunning down of the Armenian Catholic Priest and his father (but stating, erroneously, to have eliminated “two priests”). “The car in which the priest was traveling there was the inscription of the Armenian Church”.
Syrian state TV SANA called the killing of the Armenian Catholic priest and his father “martyrdom”, while the Kurdish media presented the resurgence of bloody attacks attributable to Daesh as an indirect consequence of the Turkish military intervention in Syria, which forced Kurdish militias operating in the area to review their strategies and suspend military operations against jihadist cells still present in the north-east of Syria.
According to the Kurds of the Rojava Information Center, Daesh jihadists allegedly carried out 30 attacks in the first ten days of November, with a 300 percent increase from their activity levels compared to the period prior to the Turkish military initiative in Syrian territory.
(Agenzia Fides) – “We are grateful to the Lord and give praise to the merciful God for this gift. And we thank all the friends in the world who prayed for Jacques and for our monastic community, Christians, Muslims or others, even those who do not believe or believe otherwise, for their solidarity and sympathy”. This is what Fr. Jihad Youssef, Syrian monk of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa tells Agenzia Fides who expresses his joy and gratitude and that of other monks and nuns of the community for the return to freedom of Syrian priest Jacques Murad [Mourad], who was also a member of the monastic community and the Prior of the Syrian Catholic monastery in Qaryatayn.
“We ask for the prayers and solidarity of every man and woman of good will for peace in Syria and around the world”, adds Fr. Jihad “and especially for all the people who have been abducted or have disappeared”.
Syrian priest Jacques Murad was released on Sunday 11 October, who since May 21, gunmen had kidnapped him from the Syrian Catholic monastery in Qaryatayn, 60 km south-east of Homs. According to news reported by local sources, the priest is physically well and yesterday celebrated Sunday mass in Zaydal, in the south-east of Homs.
Father Murad is part of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, founded by the Roman Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared in northern Syria on July 29, 2013 while he was in Raqqa, a stronghold of the .
The monastic settlement of Mar Elian, on the outskirts of Quaryatayn, had represented an oasis of peace and hospitality in the heart of a war zone. It was Father Jacques, along with a Sunni lawyer, who became mediators to ensure that the urban center of 35 thousand inhabitants were spared for long periods by fighting between the army and government anti-Assad militants. In the Monastery hundreds of refugees were welcomed, including more than a hundred children under ten years of age. Father Jacques and his friends had provided to find the necessary for their survival even by seeking the help of Muslim donors. Then, last August, the jihadists of the Islamic State took control of the area and devastated the monastery. During their offensive in the south-east of Homs, the jihadists also took hostage about 270 Christians and Muslims in the area of Qaryatayn. In recent days, a video was released on jihadist websites which shows a group of Christians in Qaryatayn while they participate in the meeting in which they had to sign a “payment contract” to continue living in their homes, in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) (See Fides 07/10/2015).
Photographic images of that meeting, which took place in a conference room in Qaryatayn, had been released already at the end of August. Both in the video and [photographic] images, Father Murad appears among the participants. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 12/10/2015)