Thursday, March 13, 2008

RIP Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho

Via Reuters:
ROME (Reuters) - Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop in Iraq who was kidnapped last month, has been found dead, an Italian Catholic news agency quoted an Iraqi bishop as saying on Thursday.
"Archbishop Rahho is dead. We found his lifeless body near Mosul. The kidnappers had buried him," Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad was quoted as telling SIR, the news agency of the Italian Bishops' Conference.
Rahho was seized on February 29 after gunmen attacked his car in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, killing his driver and two guards.
Asiannews has more:
Mosul (AsiaNews) - The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul is dead. Archbishop Faraj Rahho was kidnapped last February 29 after the Stations of the Cross. His kidnappers have given word of his death, indicating to the mediators where they could recover the body of the 67-year-old prelate. "It is a heavy Cross for our Church, ahead of Easter", Rabban al Qas, bishop of Arbil, tells AsiaNews in response to the news.
I've heard that Archbishop Rahho died in captivity due to necessary medication being denied to him.

Lord have mercy on your Crucified Church in Iraq!

Edited to add: The English-speaking media don't seem to be saying much about this at the moment. The Corriere della Sera has more details in Italian. The Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad isn't able to confirm how Archbishop Rahho died - whether he was killed or whether he succumbed to his illness in captivity. Fr Lombardi reports the deep sorrow of the Pope and the Holy Father's desire that this event will remind the international community of the necessity to bring peace to Iraq.

Edited again: AFP has this report:
ROME (AFP) — A Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped last month in northern Iraq was found dead on Thursday, the information service of the Italian Catholic Church said Thursday.

The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the archbishop of Mosul who was kidnapped on February 29, was found near the northern city, the Church said, quoting the auxiliary archbishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni.

It was unclear if he died of natural causes or was killed.

The kidnappers had telephoned to inform the Baghdad prelate that Rahho, who was in poor health, had died and that they had buried him, the Church's news agency SIR reported.

"The kidnappers had told us already yesterday (Wednesday) that Monsignor Rahho was very ill, and yesterday afternoon they told us that he died. This morning, they telephoned us to say they had buried him," Warduni said, adding that the kidnappers indicated the location of the body.

"We still don't know whether he died from his poor health or was killed," Warduni said. "The kidnappers only told us that he was dead."

Rahho was kidnapped in Mosul after a deadly shootout in which three of his companions were killed.

Pope Benedict XVI reacted with "deep sadness" to the news of Rahho's death, a Vatican spokesman said.

"The most absurd and unjustified violence continues to afflict the Iraqi people and in particular the small Christian community whom the pope ... holds in his prayers ... in this time of deep sadness," Father Federico Lombardi said.

"This tragic event underscored once more and with more urgency the duty of all, and in particular of the international community, to bring peace to a country that has been so tormented," Lombardi said.

Iraqi forces in Mosul had fanned out to search for Rahho, who was the latest in a long line of Chaldean clerics to be abducted in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

Two priests were kidnapped in the city in October, and last June a priest and three deacons were attacked in front of their church.

Iraq's Christians, with the Chaldean sect by far the largest community, were said to number as many as 800,000 before the 2003 invasion.

Associated with the "Crusader" invaders and regarded as well-off, they are now victims of sectarian cleansing, killings and kidnappings at the hands of both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, as well as criminal gangs.

Edited to addDespite the rumour circulating earlier that the Archbishop had died of illness, CNN reports
Nineveh Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran, in Mosul, told CNN that the kidnappers had been in touch with the church and the relatives and wanted to be paid a ransom for the archbishop's release. The contacts ended a few days ago. He said that his body had gunshot wounds:He said the apparent kidnappers had contacted relatives on Thursday and told them the body was in the eastern part of town. Relatives and authorities went to the location and found the body, which had gunshot wounds.

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