Card Sako: Msgr. Rahho and the Iraqi martyrs, a Church 'written in blood'

The words of the Chaldean patriarch 12 years after the kidnapping, that ended  with the death, of the Archbishop of Mosul.  The tribute paid by Christians to "learn from the past" and "live in peace".  The history of the Church finds its way "in the cross".  Bombings, threats, kidnappings, displacements and emigration have not undermined the faith.


Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The history of the Iraqi Church "is a history written in blood", "since ancient times" which has found its way "in the cross itself" and martyrs who "without any distinction" are "an example to follow for all of us".  The Chaldean primate, Card Louis Raphael Sako, writes in a reflection sent to AsiaNews, on the occasion of the anniversary of the kidnapping - which ended in the murder  - of the then bishop of Mosul Msgr.  Paul Faraj Rahho.  Stressing the tribute of blood shed by Christians, the Cardinal urges people "to learn from the past to respect each other" and to "live in peace".

The blood of the martyrs, underlines Card.  Sako, "is a new lifeblood" for the "growth of our Christian communities".  In the Chaldean Synod of 2015, he adds, the fathers "decided to celebrate the memory of all our martyrs on the Friday following Easter".  The Iraqi Church is full of examples of dedication and extreme sacrifice: "We have martyrs - underlines the patriarch - after the fall of the regime in 2003, [...] at the hands of Islamic extremists of al-Qaeda" and then again the "martyrs of Isis" (Islamic State).

Deacons, priests, bishops and simple faithful, many sacrificed their lives to witness the faith, in a context characterized by numerous sufferings: "bombings, threats, kidnappings, displacements and emigration".  Msgr Rahho, kidnapped on February 29, 2008, is remembered as "a modest and simple man" who loved irony and his city.  A bond that pushed him to remain despite the threats and the bombing, in 2004, of the Chaldean district of Shifa.

In 2007, a year before his death, the Chaldean community had mourned the martyrdom of Fr.  Ragheed Ganni, killed with three faithful.  During the days of the kidnapping, the then pontiff had launched appeals to the kidnappers;  his death (his body was found on March 12) was an example of faith and a source of vocations for Iraqi Christians.

"The testimony - writes the Chaldean primate - is an offer of blood [...] and is the supreme expression of our faith".  The cardinal recalls some figures who have testified their belonging to Christ with their lives, from the first Church in the time of Sapore II the Persian with a "caravan of martyrs", to the patriarch Mar Shimon Borsbaei up to the victims who fell under the blows of the Muslim fighters and the affirmation of Islam in the region.  "At the time - he remembers - we were the vast majority in this country".

And again, the persecutions under the Abbasid caliphs "despite some attempts" of timid coexistence.  Martyrs under the rule of the Mongols, then the Ottoman empire with "the extermination of Armenian, Chaldean and Syrian Christians".  "The martyr - concludes card Sako - is not a suicide bomber, but is a believer who loves life and service".  For this reason, as we recited in the hymns of the martyrs on the evening of the 25th, "we do not deny Christ, who died for our salvation".