Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Memoriam: Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Church Leader & Iraqi (1942-2008)

Paulos Faraj Rahho (بولس فرج رحو), the late Chaldean Catholic archbishop of the Iraqi city of Mosul, a longtime insurgent stronghold, was kidnapped on February 29 minutes after he finished leading prayers in the al-Safina Church, popularly known as the Church of the Holy Spirit. Three of his aides were killed in cold blood during the abduction. Church officials say that after being shoved into the trunk of his attackers' car, Rahho called them on his cell phone and instructed them not to pay a ransom for his release because he suspected (probably correctly) that the money would be used to fund more violence. The archbishop's body was found in a shallow grave on March 13. Reports indicate that his body bore no bullet wounds and it is unknown whether he was murdered or died of natural causes. In any case, his abduction was the catalyst for his death and his kidnapper's bear responsibility. They should be found, arrested, and severely punished for their crimes.

There are an estimated 550,000 Chaldean Christians in Iraq whose church is autonomous from the Vatican but recognizes the authority of the Roman Church's pope. Chaldeans make up the largest group of Iraq's estimated 700,000 Christians. The head of the Chaldean Church (patriarch) is Emmanuel III Delly, who is also a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, much like his Lebanese counterpart, the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, Nasrallah Sfeir. As I have posted previously, Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities (such as the Yazidis and Turcomans) are the country's most persecuted populations as they face pressure and violence from both Sunni and Shi'i Arab militias and paramilitary or militant groups.

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