Iraqi Archbishop kidnapped, bodyguards slain

05 Mar 2008

By The Record

Pope appeals for peace in Iraq after kidnap of Mosul archbishop
By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI appealed for peace and security in Iraq after kidnappers abducted Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, and killed the three people who were traveling with him.

The daughter of a slain bodyguard is held by her mother, right, during his funeral in Mosul, Iraq, March 1. The guard was among three men killed in the Feb. 29 abduction of Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Photo: CNS.

"May those who hold in their hands the fate of the Iraqi people
increase their efforts so that through the commitment and wisdom of
everyone, (Iraqis) may regain peace and security and not be denied the
future that is rightfully theirs," the pope said to people gathered for
his noonday Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square March 2.
Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped late Feb. 29 after he finished leading
the Way of the Cross, Chaldean Bishop Rabban al Qas of Arbil told the
Rome-based missionary news service AsiaNews.
The Mosul archbishop had just left the Church of the Holy Spirit in
Mosul and was in his car with his driver and two bodyguards when the
kidnappers attacked.
"The bishop is in the hands of terrorists," Bishop Qas told AsiaNews Feb 29.
"But we don’t know what physical condition (the archbishop is in); the
three men who were with him in the car, including his driver, were
killed," he explained.
"It’s a terrible time for our church; pray for us," he said.
The kidnappers reportedly have communicated their demands, which were not made public.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Vatican
Radio March 2 violence against Christians "destroys the trust and
brotherhood" between Iraqis.
But he said numerous Muslim leaders have made appeals and are working for the archbishop’s release.
"The people in Mosul live in fear," he said.
Archbishop Sako said the archbishop was abducted by "a criminal group,
it is not a group that claims an ideology," which suggests the
kidnappers may only be looking to receive ransom money for the
prelate’s return.
Archbishop Sako said the pope’s appeal resonates throughout all of Iraq
"because when he speaks it is balanced," which is noticed and
appreciated by Muslims leaders there.
After praying the Angelus, the pope said it was with "deep sadness I follow the dramatic news" of the archbishop’s abduction.
He said he was adding his voice to the appeal of the Chaldean
patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, to quickly release
the 65-year-old archbishop who is in a "precarious condition of health"
and reportedly must take medications daily.
The pope said his prayers were with the "three young men who were with him at the moment of the kidnapping and were killed."
He said his thoughts and prayers were also with "the entire church in
Iraq and in particular the Chaldean church, struck a harsh blow once
more." Pope Benedict also encouraged "the priests and faithful to be
strong and firm in hope."
A Vatican statement released Feb. 29 said the archbishop’s abduction and the killing of his aides was a "despicable act."
"The Holy Father asks the universal church to join in his fervent
prayer that reason and humanity will prevail in the perpetrators of the
attack," it said.
The Vatican said the fact that the archbishop was abducted immediately
after leading a Way of the Cross service indicated that the attack was
The incident comes less than a year after a Chaldean Catholic priest
and three subdeacons were gunned down outside the same Mosul church.
Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid
Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid were killed June 3 while leaving the Church
of the Holy Spirit after having celebrated Sunday Mass.
Father Ganni, the three subdeacons, and the wife of one of the
subdeacons were driving away from the church when their car was blocked
by a group of armed militants, according to AsiaNews.
The armed men forced the woman out of the car. Once she was away from
the vehicle the armed men opened fire on Father Ganni and the three
subdeacons. Subdeacon is an ordination rank lower than deacon in most
Eastern Catholic churches.
The militants then placed explosives around the car to prevent anyone
from retrieving the four bodies. Later that night, authorities finally
managed to defuse the explosives and retrieve the bodies.