A Catholic priest slain in Syria last month was not one of the three men seen being beheaded in a video clip posted online – but he was killed by anti-Assad rebels, who gunned him down as he tried to defend nuns at a monastery.

A representative of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land told CNSNews.com that Francois Murad had been “killed by eight bullets.”

She said a Franciscan from the Custody had gone to the site – St. Anthony’s Monastery in Ghassanieh – on the day Murad was killed, June 23, and had taken his body for burial later the same day in Knayeh, a village nearby.

“He also took the Catholic religious women of the village who were still in Ghassanieh, in order to find them a place more secured.”

CNSNews.com reported earlier on claims that Murad had been beheaded by rebels. A graphic online video showed the decapitation of three men, and Catholic Online reported at the weekend that Murad had been identified as one of the three victims.

The Franciscan representative said the Custody did not know the identities of the three men who were beheaded, or whether any of them were Christians or clergy.

Based in Jerusalem, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, headed by Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has jurisdiction stretching from Egypt to Syria.

Murad, 49, was a former Franciscan friar who was later ordained as a priest. After his own monastery in Ghassanieh was bombed he moved into the Franciscan one in the same village, St. Anthony’s, for safety and to give support to those still there, including nuns – until Sunday, June 23, when rebels attacked.

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