Pope deplores "senseless killing" of Iraqi clerics

Describing the deaths of Mosul priest Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni and three subdeacons as a "costly sacrifice" for the Gospel, Pope Benedict has lamented the latest attacks on the Iraqi Christian community as "senseless".

Saying he was "deeply saddened" by Sunday's "senseless killing of Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni and the subdeacons" in Mosul, the Pope expressed "his heartfelt condolences" in a telegram to the city's bishop, Msgr Rahho, and the families of the deceased, AsiaNews reports.

In his message, the pope said he "joins the Christian community in Mosul in commending their souls to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father and in giving thanks for their selfless witness to the Gospel".

The pontiff said he would pray that the "costly sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence ... and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice and peace in Iraq."

Fr Ragheed and his three sub-deacons - Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, Gassan Isam Bidawed - were murdered in cold blood as they left the Parish Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul after Sunday Mass.

After celebrating Sunday Mass, Fr Ragheed and his three aides, who had insisted on protecting him, were leaving the Parish by car, accompanied by the wife of one of the sub-deacons, Gassan Isam Bidawed, AsiaNews says.

At the corner of the road, their car was blocked by unknown armed men militants who ordered the woman to distance herself from the others and then, in cold blood, repeatedly shot the remaining passengers.

According to AsiaNews, the aggressors then booby trapped the car with explosives, with the aim of further carnage should anyone near the car to recover the bodies.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the bodies remained, abandoned on the city street, because no one dared to approach.

It was only towards 10pm Sunday night that security forces finally defused the explosives allowing corpses to be recovered. They now lie in repose in the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Ragheed had led a community that aimed to challenge violence, AsiaNews says.

"Christ challenged evil with his infinite love, he keeps us united and through the Eucharist he gifts us life, which the terrorists are trying to take away," the paper quotes Fr Ragheed as saying.

"Without Sunday, without the Eucharist the Christians in Iraq cannot survive," Fr Ragheed had said.

Ragheed, a "costly sacrifice" so that Iraq may see the dawn of reconciliation, says Pope (AsiaNews, 4/6/07)
The Chaldean Church mourns Fr. Ragheed Ganni and his martyrs (AsiaNews, 4/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Who Are Christians of Iraq ?
A Final Appeal: Save Christian Iraq (www.chiesa)

Iraq Christians taxed for their religion (CathNews, 20/3/07)
'Big problems'' for Iraqi Christians, Pontifical agency warns (CathNews, 2/3/07)
Pax Christi welcomes British plan to withdraw Iraq troops (CathNews, 23/2/07)
Non-violence a "way of being", Benedict says (CathNews, 19/2/07)
Indian Catholics mark Gandhi non-violence centenary (CathNews, 6/2/07)
Pax Christi raps profiteers in Palestinian occupation (CathNews, 12/7/06)
More young Christian women abducted, raped in Iraq (CathNews, 12/10/06)
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)
Pax Christi stands firm on nuclear weapons (CathNews, 19/7/05)
Pax Christi Australia call for end to Falluja violence (CathNews 19/11/04)
Five churches bombed in Baghdad (CathNews, 18/10/04)
Pax Christi call for US to act as "honest broker" (CathNews 31/5/04)
Pope says Iraq war threatens humanity (CathNews, 24/3/03)
Vatican reasserts opposition to war in Iraq (CathNews, 4/10/02)

5 Jun 2007