03/13/2009, 00.00
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Kirkuk, Christians and Muslims pray for Msgr. Rahho and for all Iraqi Martyrs

by Louis Sako*
Today is the first anniversary of the kidnap and death of the Archbishop of Mosul. The local community has crowded into the churches to honour the prelate’s memory. Muslim representatives also take part in the commemoration. The Archbishop of Kirkuk: Over 700 killed, including children. The blood of Iraqi martyrs is an invitation to “national cooperation and reconciliation”.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – Today Iraq marks the first anniversary of the death of Paulo Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. Mass was also held in Kirkuk this morning celebrated by Archbishop Louis Sako, who recalled the “martyrdom of the bishop of Mosul” in his homily as well as the “long list of Iraqi Christian martyrs”.  Muslim representatives also participated in the ceremony in a sign of solidarity with “the Christian community”.

Msgr. Rahho was abducted on February 29th at the end of celebrating the Way of the Cross in Holy Spirit parish.  The prelate was gravely ill; he had suffered a severe heart attack in preceding years and since then had been in need of daily medication.  The difficulty of negotiations that went on for over 14 days gave little hope for a successful outcome, given a complete lack of communication with the hostage.  During the abduction three other people were killed: Faris Gorgis Khoder, the bishop’s driver and body guards Ramy and Samir.

Below the message that Msgr Louis Sako sends to AsiaNews:

Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Bishop Paolo Faraj Rahho and his companions.  A year ago we were struck and scandalised by this absurd event! And at the same time we celebrate the memorial of a long list of Christian martyrs: 710 in Iraq, including the 21 from Kirkuk, among them the altar server Fadi, the two sisters Margaret and Fadhila, and colonel and deacon W. Boraji.

This celebration is not in memory of the past but a concrete presence that goes beyond the boundaries of time.  We are before a great mystery, the mystery of life in all of its fullness.  In fact martyrdom explains all of life’s intensity and its glory.  Life that we call “eternal” not in the way which philosophers call it so, but according to the concrete testimony of Jesus Christ.  In Him we find reason to hope, persevere, adore and above all the strength to put up with it all.

There are many challenges and difficulties but we must not give in to pessimism and fear….we Christians must continue to be the difficult number in the equation.  The death of these heroes must help us to overcome our fears and doubts.  Their martyrdom is a sign of the transfiguration and resurrection that has become part of our Church and our nation “an oasis of blessings”.

We cannot remain in silence; we must remind the Iraq community and the international community of the importance of the Christian presence in Iraq, and their witness of loyalty, faith and honesty.  Our desire is to continue this existence of love in respect of human rights.  We want to live in peace and brotherhood with others.

The blood of so many Iraqi martyrs invites us all to return to a dignified way of living in society and to sincerely cooperate for national reconciliation; it also invites us to create a democratic society that respects the freedom of all of its citizens and their dignity.

This commemoration of the martyrs holds for us great meaning of love, hope, consolation and joy.  Good Friday will surely be followed by Easter Sunday.

*Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk


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