High ransom demanded for kidnapped Iraqi priest

Chaldean Bishop Shlemon Warduni says that kidnappers are demanding a "very, very high ransom" for an Iraqi priest, Fr Nawzat P Hanna, who was abducted on Saturday.

The Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad also firmly denied rumours that the parish priest was freed yesterday, AsiaNews reports.

He confirmed that "we are in constant contact with his abductors, and we are praying for his release".

The priest is now in his fourth day of captivity.

"Fr Nawzat is still in the hands of his abductors - refers the worried prelate - we have telephone contact with them, and we have been assured of our priest's 'good health'," Bishop Warduni said.

"Let us pray that God illuminate the hearts of these men and that Fr Nawzat may come home safe and sound," he said.

Paris priest in Mar Pithion, in the Baladiyat neighbourhood, Fr Nawzat was leaving the home of a sick parishioner when he was stopped by people who "were waiting for him".

The kidnappers immediately established contact with the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad to demand a ransom.

Meanwhile the Christian exodus from the capital continues, AsiaNews says.

Saturday's kidnapping is part of a wider operation of intimidation and violence directed at the capital's Christian community, against whom fundamentalists are carrying out a "door to door", neighbourhood by neighbourhood campaign of ethnic cleansing, according to AsiaNews.

In the historic Christian quarter of Dora, the majority of the Churches are now closed, families have fled and important Catholic institutions have been moved northwards and after the numerous abductions of religious, the Patriarchate has been forced to transfer many of them abroad.

Iraq: Catholic priest kidnapped (Independent Catholic News, 21/5/07)
"High" ransom demanded for Priest kidnapped in Baghdad (AsiaNews, 21/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Shlemon Warduni (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Christians of Iraq
The Chaldean Church - Christians in Iraq
Aid to the Church in Need Australia

Iraqi Christians want protection from Al-Qaeda (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Save Iraq Christians, Bishop appeals (CathNews, 24/4/07)
Benedict blasts Iraq slaughter (CathNews, 10/4/07)
Iraq Christians taxed for their religion (CathNews, 20/3/07)
More young Christian women abducted, raped in Iraq (CathNews, 12/10/06)
More Catholic church attacks across Asia (CathNews, 27/9/06)
Official highlights bleak outlook for Iraq (CathNews, 27/2/06)
Bishops see US 'at a crossroads in Iraq' (CathNews 16/1/06)
British cardinal prays for Iraq peacemaker hostages (CathNews 13/12/05)
Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion (CathNews 8/11/05)
Five churches bombed in Baghdad (CathNews, 18/10/04)
Baghdad Patriarch says 'we knocked, a door opened' (CathNews, 29/9/04)

22 May 2007