Iraqi archbishop from Mosul kidnapped, three aides killed

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Chaldean Catholic archbishop was kidnapped from the Iraqi city of Mosul Friday after a shootout killed three of his aides.

Archbishop Faraj-Farraj Rahhu was walking home from mass when he was seized after a shootout that took place in the eastern al-Nur district and left Rahhu's driver and two bodyguards dead, said Brigadier General Khalid Abd al-Sattar.

Pope Benedict XVI quickly condemned the kidnapping, calling it a "despicable" and "atrocious act which touches the whole of the church [in Iraq]".

Rahhu is the latest in an long line of clerics that have been kidnapped since the 2003 Iraq invasion led by the United States. Rahhu's predecessor, the Syrian-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Monsignor Basil Georges Casmoussa, was kidnapped in January of 2005 and was held for one day before he was released.

Other officials were not so lucky. Last June, Chaldean priest Ragheed Ganni and three of his assistants were shot and killed outside the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul.

In June 2007, Pope Benedict commented to George W. Bush about the plight of Iraqi Christians. "Particularly in Iraq, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment," he said.

Mosul is the third-largest city in Iraq, behind Basra and Baghdad, and is a center for the oil industry. An ethnically and religiously mixed city, Mosul has roughly 50,000 Christians. The Chaldean church descended from the Nestorian Church. The church's traditional liturgical language is Syriac, which is a descendant of Aramaic, which was supposedly spoken by Jesus and his desciples.