A Sign of Hope
In the rubble of the ancient Mar Elian monastery in Quaryatayn, Syria, which was destroyed by the Islamic State, the former prior has discovered relics of the saint for whom the monastery was named.

Father Jacques Murad, who was taken prisoner when forces of the Islamic State overran the area, returned to the Mar Elian monastery after Syrian government troops recaptured Quaryatayn. He reported that relics of St. Elian-- the son of a 3rd-century Roman military official, who was executed when he refused to renounce his Christian faith-- were found near the saint's tomb. "The fact that the relics of Mar Elian are not lost is for me a great sign," the priest told the Fides news service. "It means that he did not want to leave the monastery and the holy land."

The Mar Elian monastery, established in the 5th century, was systematically demolished by the Islamic State last year.

Everything collapsed around it, but the glass case with the statue of our Lady of Light remained intact after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16.

The statue was housed at the Leonie Aviat school in the Tarqui administrative district in Manta Canton, Ecuador, one of the areas most strongly affected by the earthquake.

Sister Patricia Esperanza, a member of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales community in Guayaquil, told CNA that the school run by her congregation was reduced to rubble. But while the entire school collapsed, the glass case of the Virgin – who is patroness of the Oblates – was completely unharmed.

The sisters cannot get over their amazement, she said.

Sister María del Carmen Gómez of the community in Manta, told CNA that on Wednesday they began demolition work, and that is when they discovered the statue.

“Not only did the Virgin remain intact in its grotto, but also my Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” she said.

“The Blessed Sacrament was in a small chapel at the entrance to the school and was buried. We found it intact together with some liturgical objects used for the Eucharistic celebration and another smaller statue of Our Lady of Light.”

Now, the occurrence is giving hope to the Tarqui community and consolation to Ecuadorans in the entire country.

The Oblates have been working in this school since 1960 and had more than 900 students enrolled for this school year.
The April 16 earthquake – which was declared the worst in Ecuador in some 70 years – left 600 people dead and thousands more injured

During a visit to Connecticut to thank the Knights of Columbus for their support of persecuted Syrian Christians, the Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo spoke about the destruction of his city and a resurgence of public expression of the faith around Easter.

“They destroyed the old city, many ancient houses,” Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart said of Syrian rebel forces. “My archbishopric, which dates to the 18th century, was partially destroyed; my cathedral too, and other structures.”

Around Holy Week, he said that a temporary cease-fire “allowed us to have very beautiful celebrations for Easter, and we were surprised to see the huge number of faithful coming to church,” according to an Aleteia report.

Archbishop Jeanbart added:

I celebrated Palm Sunday, and there were about 3,000 people, and we were able to make a procession with a band. During Holy Week, thousands of people came. I celebrated in the largest church in Aleppo. We had several celebrations around the city, which means there are still a lot of people present. We didn’t expect that.

In 2009, a Muslim mob attacked Christians in Gojra, a city of 143,000 in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Eight Christians were burned alive, and 40 homes and a church were destroyed, not counting churches burned down in nearby towns.

Six years later, Muslims in the city have helped pay for the rebuilding of a mud church swept away in a monsoon. Father Aftab James Paul “said the condemnable acts of the few should not be blamed on all the followers of a religion, while the message of love must be spread among society,” the Daily Pakistan reported.


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