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How do you celebrate Mass under ISIS?

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/09/16

Father Jacques Mourad answers that question and more:

Father Jacques Mourad ministers in Sulaymaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He serves the many displaced Christians from Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh Plain, who have fled in the face of the advance of the jihadists. It was these same jihadists who kidnapped him from the Syrian monastery of Mar Elian in May 2015, along with hundreds of other Christians. They all signed a “protection contract” with ISIS, that allowed them to continue living as Christians but imposed a heavy tax and other severe restrictions. Finally, after several months and after taking control of Father Mourad’s home town of Quaryatayn, they released the Syro-Catholic monk. Father Mourad is a member of the monastic community founded by Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who has been missing for several years. After a few months spent recovering in Rome, Father Mourad decided to return to the Middle East. In spite of all the troubles of the past few years, he still finds different peoples living together in harmony, threatened only by “religious and political factors.” The priest teaches children the catechism and prepares them for first Communion. He spoke with Vatican Insider about his experiences and prospects for the future. How did you celebrate Mass under the jihadist regime? In Quaryatayn, we managed to celebrate the first Mass on September 5, exactly a year ago. The Islamic State’s jihadists brought us — more than 250 Christians — back to our city, having held us hostage in various locations. We found an underground space in a building situated in what was once the Christian neighborhood. As we —Syro-Catholic and Syro-Orthodox faithful — celebrated Mass together, we were full of awe at the miracle we were experiencing. Everyone? Yes, me especially. It was the first Mass I celebrated after four months and 15 Sundays spent in prison. At the beginning there was fear: what if they, the jihadists, turned up? How would they react? Then I felt a sense of gratitude wash over me, an urge to give thanks to Him who supported me through all those trials, even as they told me they would slit my throat if I did not convert. I thought a great deal about that Mass, after I heard the news about the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel who was slain at the altar of his parish church in France.  

Read it all. And please remember this priest—and all who have been persecuted—in your prayers.

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