Thursday, March 13, 2008

Iraqi Archbishop Murdered

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho has become the latest Iraqi martyr. The body of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, was found this morning. Please pray for his soul and those of his murderers. Christians in Iraq are in particular danger and I believe the archbishop's murder was a tool used by the terrorists to force the Christians to leave.

From Asia News:

The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul had been dead for at least five days before his body was found this morning by some members of the Church, following information provided by the kidnappers themselves. This timeline is provided by the autopsy conducted on the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, found in an abandoned area outside of the city, which is in part used as a trash dump. This information comes to AsiaNews from sources close to the deceased bishop. Archbishop Rahho had been buried, says Bishop Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.

There do not seem to be any signs of violence on the body of the prelate, who was kidnapped on February 29. He probably died because of the lack of medicines that he had to take regularly because of his serious health problems. But the causes of his death are still not clear.

Archbishop Rahho and the three men who were with him at the moment of the ambush join the long list of Christians killed in Iraq. Mosul confirms its place as the most dangerous city for the Christian community, the presence of which has dropped by two thirds since 2003. This diocese has paid a heavy tribute in blood. In 2007 alone, at least 13 Christians are believed to have been killed - including Fr Ragheed Gani, slaughtered on June 3 - as well as two priests and a kidnapped bishop. There have been many attacks on Christian targets. The latest wave of violence came from January 6-17, 2008, when a series of explosions struck the Chaldean Church of Mary Immaculate, the Chaldean Church of St. Paul, which was almost destroyed, the entryway to the orphanage run by the Chaldean sisters in al Nour, a Nestorian church, and the convent of the Dominican sisters of Mosul Jadida.

According to a list drawn up by AsiaNews, a total of 47 people died of violent causes in Iraq last year, at least 13 of them in Mosul alone.

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.

In his telegram the Pope expressed his closeness "to the Chaldean Church and to the entire Christian community", and reaffirmed his "condemnation for an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the cause of the fraternal coexistence of the beloved Iraqi people".

The Holy Father gave assurances of his prayers for the archbishop "who was kidnapped just after he had completed the Way of the Cross" and invokes the Lord's mercy "that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq".

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. also released the following declaration today:

"We had all continued to hope and pray for his release, something the Pope had requested on a number of occasions in his appeals.

"Unfortunately the most senseless and unjustified violence continues to be inflicted on the Iraqi people, and especially on the small Christian community to which the Pope and all of us are particularly close in prayer and solidarity at this moment of great suffering.

"It is to be hoped that this tragic event may once more - and more powerfully - underline the responsibility of everyone, and especially of the international community, for the pacification of so troubled a country".

NOTE: The details of the Asia News article are contradictory to the CNN report which states that the Archbishop's body did contain gunshot wounds.

Here is a brief biography of Archbishop Rahho:

Because of the conflict in Mosul, only a third of the area's Christians have remained, Archbishop Rahho denounced in November. For his little flock, the prelate still represented a "hope". The faithful recount to AsiaNews that the bishop had always said "that he wanted to remain in Iraq until the end, even if this meant death". His presence was an act of "resistance against terrorism and violence". Born in 1941, Faraj Rahho was a seminarian at the patriarchal seminary of Saint Simon. He then became the pastor of the church of Mar Elia. After a brief period of studies in Rome, he returned to Iraq. There, in the 1980's, he became the leader of the newly founded parish of St Paul in Mosul, until he was appointed as an archbishop in 2001. In 1989, he founded the Fraternity of Charity and Joy, with the aim of assisting sick people and guaranteeing them love and a dignified life. He also worked hard on behalf of young people. In the 1990's, when Iraq was under embargo, he instituted the "Youth Week", a successful initiative that later became a pastoral outreach for the entire diocese.

Photo source.

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