Saint's relics found in rubble of church destroyed by terrorists

By Gaby Maniscalco

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The relics of Syrian St. Elian, which
originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of the so-called
Islamic State militia, 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.
Father Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was
kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church.

Father Mourad, who was freed Oct. 11, reported the discovery
of the relics to Fides April 5. “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 the Islamic State forces controlled the area, however,
local Christians preserved their veneration of St. Elian, Fides said.

Father 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. Father Mourad asked that they collect and guard the

“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.”

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