"They Have Killed Our Shepherd"

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At the end of Holy Mass today at the Monastery of the Glorious, we sang the antiphons In Paradisum and Chorus Angelorum for the repose of the soul of His Grace, Archbishop Paulos Fraj Rahho.

Adapted from the official Chaldean Community Website:

Mosul, IRAQ – The Chaldean community around the world stands numb and in disbelief at news of the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul.

Outcry from world leaders held no sway as fanatical terrorists proved once more that women, children, medical providers, and now spiritual leaders are not safe from their killing spree. “These are innocent people that want to help bring peace. They kill them, because they are filled with hate. These barbarians have no faith in anything, but their own rise to power,” said Omar Touma, a recent refugee and Chaldean parishioner of the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Canada.

Mournful cries and prayers spread quickly as e-mail and phone messaging communicated the sorrowful news. "Our Bishop is dead," said one message, accompanied by images of weeping families huddled together, comforting one another.

Church official say that the kidnappers had been demanding a heavy ransom. When requests were made to speak to the Archbishop, the kidnappers replied that the Archbishop was dead and gave instructions on how the Archbishop's body could be recovered.

The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul had been dead for at least five days before his body was found this morning by members of the Church, following information provided by the kidnappers themselves. This timeline was provided by the autopsy conducted on the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. The Archbishop's body was found in an abandoned area outside of the city, which is in part used as a trash dump.

Archbishop Rahho was seized outside the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Mosul after conducting a Stations of the Cross service on Friday, February 29th. Three parishioners were killed by the gunmen who abducted the archbishop.

In the days after the kidnapping, Church leaders pleaded in vain for some clear evidence that Archbishop Rahho was alive and well. The Archbishop, who was 69, suffered from a serious heart condition and needed daily medication.

The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown. Although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had ordered an all-out effort to locate the archbishop and secure his release, troops were unsuccessful in their search around Mosul, a city dominated by insurgents and terrorists.

While the kidnappers did ask for a large money ransom, they were evidently not motivated solely by the desire for financial gain. Church spokesmen said that their demands included political conditions: an indication that the Archbishop's abduction was arranged by a terrorist group rather than simply a criminal gang.

Mosul is the most dangerous city for the Christian community, the presence of which has dropped by over 75% since 2003. Christians remain the soft target for insurgents, terrorists, and criminal gangs looking to raise money and fund their ongoing operations.

After the Iraqi government and coalition forces systematically began turning off funding sources for these militant and criminal groups, their focus turned towards Christians. Iraqi Christians tend to be educated professionals and considered wealthy. A pro-Islamic police force pursue crimes against Christians less aggressively since the victims have a dhimmi status under Islamic law.

The attacks have created a brain-drain in Iraq as Christian professionals flee the country in large numbers. Professors, doctors, scientists, and engineers have fled into neighboring regions or across the ocean seeking a haven of safety.

After Father Ragheed Ganni was murdered on 3 June 2007, intelligence revealed that the terrorists were politically motivated to drive Christians out of Iraq. The latest wave of violence against the Church occurred on 6-17 January 2008, when a series of explosions struck the Chaldean Church of Mary Immaculate, the Chaldean Church of St Paul, which was almost destroyed, the entryway to the orphanage run by the Chaldean Sisters in al Nour, a Nestorian church, and the convent of the Dominican sisters of Mosul Jadida.

“Our faith is in Jesus who died for the sins of humanity. He will find favour in our Chaldean Martyr who offered nothing but peace, hope, and love,” says Chaldean Catholic Omar Touma. “May Archbishop Raho rest in the arms of Our Lord and may God show mercy on those who continue to hate. They will not scatter the Chaldean flock because they have killed our shepherd. Our faith will now grow even stronger.”

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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