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 CNS Story:

MOSUL-KIDNAP (UPDATED) Feb-29-2008 (440 words) With photos. xxxi

Kidnappers take Iraqi archbishop, kill his three companions

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Kidnappers abducted Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, and killed the three people who were traveling with him.

Chaldean Bishop Rabban al Qas of Arbil told the Rome-based missionary news service AsiaNews that Mosul's archbishop was kidnapped late Feb. 29 after he finished leading the Way of the Cross.

Archbishop Rahho had just left the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and was in his car with three other men when the kidnappers attacked.

"The bishop is in the hands of terrorists," Bishop Qas told AsiaNews.

"But we don't know what physical condition (the archbishop is in); the three men who were with him in the car, including his driver, were killed," he explained.

"It's a terrible time for our church; pray for us," he said.

The kidnappers have reportedly communicated their demands, which were not made public.

A Vatican statement said the archbishop's abduction and the killing of his aides was a "despicable act." It said Pope Benedict XVI was saddened deeply at news of the attack and was praying for the archbishop's immediate release.

"The Holy Father asks the universal church to join in his fervent prayer that reason and humanity will prevail in the perpetrators of the attack," it said. The pope expressed his closeness to the entire Christian community in Iraq, it said.

The Vatican said the fact that the archbishop was abducted immediately after leading a Way of the Cross service indicated that the attack was premeditated.

The incident comes less than a year after a Chaldean Catholic priest and three subdeacons were gunned down outside the same Mosul church.

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid were killed June 3 while leaving the Church of the Holy Spirit after having celebrated Sunday Mass.

Father Ganni, the three subdeacons, and the wife of one of the subdeacons were driving away from the church when their car was blocked by a group of armed militants, according to AsiaNews.

The armed men forced the woman out of the car. Once the woman was away from the vehicle the armed men opened fire on Father Ganni and the three subdeacons. Subdeacon is an ordination rank lower than deacon in most Eastern Catholic churches.

The militants then placed explosives around the car to prevent anyone from retrieving the four bodies. Later that night, authorities finally managed to defuse the explosives and retrieve the bodies.

- - -

Contributing to this story was John Thavis in Rome.

END


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