Churches decry bishop’s murder

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rahho1.jpgRome
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the northern Iraq city of Mosul, who was kidnapped in February by armed attackers, was found dead on March 13, church officials in Baghdad announced.

“We found him lifeless near Mosul. His abductors had buried him,” the Rome-based SIR news agency quoted Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop, Shlemon Warduni, as saying.

In a telegram to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean-rite Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Pope Benedict XVI condemned “an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of the human being.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, expressed his deep shock and sorrow at the killing, saying, “Our prayers are daily with the people of Iraq, especially with the vulnerable Christian community, and particularly with the Chaldeans and Archbishop Paulos’ family.”

Archbishop Rahho had been abducted in Mosul on Feb. 29 by gunmen who also killed three of his companions.

In Geneva, the World Council of Churches said it was “deeply saddened” by the news and called for prayers for the Iraqi Christian community, and for an end to the war in Iraq.

Until the US-led military action in 2003, Christians accounted for roughly 3 per cent of Iraq’s mainly Muslim population, or about 700 000 people. Approximately 70 per cent of them belong to the Chaldean church, which follows the ancient Chaldean rite but is in union with the Roman Catholic Church.

Chaldean is a form of Aramaic, spoken at the time of Jesus. The Chaldeans converted to Christianity in the first century A.D., and the Chaldean branch of Christianity has been in Iraq since then.