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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Relics of St Elian discovered in church destroyed by terrorists

The relics of Syrian St Elian, which originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of Daesh, have been found amid the rubble of the desecrated Mar Elian Church in Qaryatain, Syria.

The sanctuary was bulldozed in August 2015, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Fr Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church.

Fr Mourad, who was freed on 11th October, reported the discovery of the relics to Fides on 5th April. “The fact that the relics of Mar Elian are not lost is for me a great sign: It means that he did not want to leave the monastery and the Holy Land,” the priest said.

The relics of St Elian, a third-century martyr, were discovered after Syrian military forces had retaken control of Qaryatain. Even while Daesh forces controlled the area, however, local Christians preserved their veneration of St Elian, Fides said.

Fr Mourad had told his flock, “It is not important that the monastery is destroyed, it is not even important that the tomb was destroyed. The important thing is that you bear Mar Elian in your heart, wherever you go, even in Canada, or Europe, because he wants to stay in the hearts of his followers.”

A priest of the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Homs and monks from the Mar Musa monastery were set to go to Mar Elian to survey its condition, Fides reported. Fr Mourad asked that they collect and guard the remains.

“We know that the old sanctuary was destroyed, the archaeological site was devastated, while the new church and monastery were burned and partly bombed,” he said. “The life of grace will bloom again around the memory of the saints. It will be a great blessing for our entire Church.”

Picture: A view shows the damage in the town of Qaryatain, Syria, on 4th April, after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad recaptured it. CNS photo/SANA via Reuters.