Relics of Syrian saint found in rubble of church

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A view shows the damage in the town of Qaryatain, Syria, on 4 April, after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad recaptured it. Photo: Syrian National News Agency via Reuters
A view shows the damage in the town of Qaryatain, Syria, on 4 April, after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad recaptured it. Photo: Syrian National News Agency via Reuters

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 Evangelisation 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 11 October, reported the discovery of the relics to Fides on 5 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 the Islamic State forces controlled the area, however, local Christians preserved their veneration of St Elian, the news agency reported.

It 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.”