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Concerns grow for abducted Syrian priest

Last week, reports suggested Islamic extremists may have abducted Father Mourad from a car he was travelling in with a colleague near Palmyra , the city captured by Islamic Stat earlier this month.

Father Mourad, who was based at Mar Elian monastery in Qaryatayn, 65 miles from Palmyra, had dedicated himself to the people suffering from the consequences of the Syrian war.

John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need, said it was also unclear if Father Mourad's monastery in Qaryatayn, had been overrun by Islamic State militants: "We are, as you would expect, deeply concerned, for the safety of those people who have been seeking sanctuary there and the need is definitely apparent for them to be moved to places of safety."

Speaking to Catholic charity a week after the abduction, Fr Jacques's confrere, Fr Jihad Youssef, said: "Please pray for Fr Jacques and his companion, as well as for our community.

"Armed masked men took both of them away. We don't know who it was and where our brothers are at this moment. We're totally in the dark."

The Syrian priest also paid tribute to Fr Mourad's work with the displaced who had been driven out of their homes.

He said: "In the monastery of Mar Elian in Qaryatayn Fr Jacques dedicated himself to the people suffering from the consequences of the Syrian war.

"In particular he set great store by renovation projects to enable people to live again in their houses, which had been destroyed.

"But the psychological care of people in the war and other emergency humanitarian aid were also important to him. For years he had cared for war refugees."

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the work helping displaced Syrians at the monastery of Mar Elian, with more £71,000 in help.

According to the statistics of the Syrian Arab Red Cross, there are 638 refugee families that came to Qaryatayn.

Aid to the Church in Need has provided more than £8.5 million helping the Church in Syria and Iraq since the end of 2011.

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