03/01/2008, 00.00

Three Christians killed in kidnapping of Mosul bishop buried in Karamles

The funerals were held this morning for the driver and two bodyguards. The same city also holds the tomb of Fr Ragheed, killed last year in the area where Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped yesterday. Sources in Iraq speak of "signs that leave hope that he may be alive". The appeal of the pope and the apprehension of the faithful and the patriarchate: the bishop is sick and needs his medicines.

Mosul (AsiaNews) - The funerals were held this morning in Karamles, a Christian village near Mosul, for the three persons killed yesterday in the ambush of Chaldean archbishop Faraj Rahho, now in the hands of his kidnappers.  The victims were Faris Gorgis Khoder, his driver, and Ramy and Samir, two of his bodyguards.  All three were the fathers of families, each with three children.  Meanwhile, there is no official news on the condition of the 67-year-old bishop, who at the moment of his kidnapping had just finished celebrating the Way of the Cross at the parish of the Holy Spirit.  AsiaNews sources in Iraq speak of "signs that leave hope that archbishop Rahho may still be alive, and that his kidnappers want to negotiate".  The faithful of his diocese express great concern over their pastor: "The bishop must take medicines every day; we trust in the humanity of these people".  Today as well, the website of the Chaldean patriarchate expresses concern over the bishop's health.

An appeal "that reason and humanity may prevail in the authors of the kidnapping, and that Archbishop Rahho may be restored as soon as possible to the care of his flock" was launched yesterday evening by the pope. Benedict XVI says that he is "embittered by this execrable new act, which profoundly affects the whole Church in the country, and in particular the Chaldean Church".  He also expresses his "closeness" to the patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly (editor's note: currently in Amman) and to "that entire, sorely tried Christian community, and also to the family members of the victims".  The pope, finally, invited the universal Church "to unite with its fervent prayer the intention that the Iraqi people may find the path of reconciliation and peace".

The leaders of the Church in Iraq have been mobilised in the effort to liberate Archbishop Rahho, as have representatives of the Muslim community.  The appeal from some Iraqi imams should come between today and tomorrow.

The archbishop of Mosul had in the past denounced the persecution of Christians taking place in the city, and had already received several threats.  On June 3, 2007, in the area of the same church where his kidnapping took place yesterday, Fr Ragheed Gani and three subdeacons were shot to death.  "In Mosul", recount the inhabitants, "we are all frightened, Christians and Muslims, we are afraid, but we are praying for the bishop".

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