Middle East in Focus

Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. - Photo John Kozar

The Palestinian Police stopped Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Swerios Malki Murad, the Patriarchal Vicar who leads the Syrian Orthodox Christian community present in Holy Land. The arrest took place on Saturday evening, April 2: according to local sources consulted by Fides, the Palestinian police stopped the convoy of cars that was accompaning the Patriarchal Vicar towards Jerusalem, after a visit he carried out at the Palestinian village of Al -Khader. Sources of the Palestinian diplomatic representation to the Holy See told Fides that the Metropolitan was released after being subjected to a brief interrogation. Palestinian court authorities have so far not provided any explanation on the reasons which led to the temporary custody of the Bishop. Rumors circulating on the web - and attributed to Basem Badawi, head of the Prosecutor of Bethlehem - refer to a complaint filed against the Metropolitan from a Syrian Orthodox Christian woman. 

Meanwhile representatives of the local Syrian Orthodox communities had already appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, demanding the immediate release of Metropolitan Swerios. 

Archbishop Murad holds the title of “Patriarchal vicar of the Holy Land and Jordan.
He has been serving in his post since 1996. The Syriac community in Jerusalem and Bethlehem consists of some 5000 Christians. Rasem Badawi, head of the Bethlehem prosecutor’s office, said that the senior church official was arrested following a complaint lodged against him by a woman belonging to the Syrian community. Badawi did not give details about the nature of the complaint.

PA Prosecutors said Murad was arrested after a woman filed a civil complaint, but didn’t explain its nature. Around 5,000 Syriac Orthodox Christians live in the West Bank, mostly in and around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Members of the Syriac community threatened to leave the PA over their leader’s arrest.