Thursday, October 15, 2009
Archbishop Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho
Paulos Faraj Rahho was born to a Chaldean family in 1942 in Mosul. He spent nearly all his life in Mosul, a city with one of the largest and oldest Christian populations in Iraq. In 1954 he entered the St. Peter's junior and major seminary in Baghdad in order to become a priest. After his ordination on June 10, 1965 he briefly worked in Baghdad before being appointed to St. Isaiah's Church in Mosul. Between 1974 and 1976, Rahho completed his religious studies in Rome. Rahho later founded the church of the Sacred Heart in Tel Keppe, a town some 20 kilometers north of Mosul. "He also opened an orphanage for handicapped children".
In 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of the Archeparchy of Mosul. On February 16, 2001, he was ordained Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, giving him responsibility for around 20,000 Catholics in ten parishes. He was ordained by the Patriarch of Babylon. His church is known in Mosul as Safina (The Ship), but parishioners called it the Holy Spirit Church.
Rahho expressed disquiet at the moves to incorporate Sharia law more fundamentally into the Iraqi constitution, and continued throughout his life to lead worship in difficult situations. During his 2007 trip to Rome, with the patriarch of Babylon Emmanuel III Delly who was then appointed cardinal, Rahho confided that he had been threatened by gunmen in his native town. Following the start of the Iraq war, persecution of Christians in Iraq increased dramatically. Rahho commented on the precarious situation of Mesopotamian Christians in an interview with Asia News shortly before his kidnapping.
Late on February 29, 2008, according to a report given by the Catholic News Service, Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped from his car in the Al-Nur district of the city; his bodyguards and driver were killed. According to church officials, "gunmen sprayed the Archbishop's car with bullets, killed two bodyguards and shoved the bishop into the trunk of a car. In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said. "He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions," the officials said". Other reports stated that also investigators believed the archbishop may have been shot at the time of the kidnapping.
The kidnappers demanded Christians contribute to the jihad, through jizya.  The captors also demanded the release of Arab (Non-Iraqi) detainees and that they be paid three million dollars for Rahho's release. The kidnappers also demanded that Iraqi Christians form a militia to fight the US forces.
On March 13, 2008, it was reported that the Archbishop's body had been found buried in a shallow grave near Mosul. Officials of the Chaldean Church in Iraq said they had received a call telling them where the body was buried. Reports over the cause of death were contradictory. An official of the morgue in Mosul said the archbishop, who had health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes, might have died of natural causes. Police at the Mosul morgue said the Archbishop "appeared to have been dead a week and his body bore no bullet wounds". Nineveh Deputy Governor Khasro Goran stated that when relatives and authorities went to the location specified by the kidnappers and found the body, it had "gunshot wounds".
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho is believed to be the highest-ranking Chaldean Catholic clergyman to have been killed in the current Iraq war. The funeral services were held in the town of Karamlesh, with Chaldean Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel Delly in presence.