Pope Mourns Death of Kidnapped Iraqi Prelate

Prays for Mercy for "Martyred Land"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to the leader of the Church in Iraq, expressing his condolences at the death of the archbishop of Mosul, who was kidnapped Feb. 29.

In the telegram to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the Pope expressed his closeness "to the Chaldean Church and to the entire Christian community," reaffirming his "condemnation for an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the cause of the fraternal coexistence of the beloved Iraqi people."

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped just after he had finished leading the Way of the Cross. The three men who accompanied the archbishop, including his driver, were killed.

The Holy Father's telegram gave assurances of his prayers for the 65-year-old archbishop and invoked the Lord's mercy "that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq."

The kidnappers revealed in a phone call Wednesday where the body of the prelate could be found. AsiaNews obtained reports that the archbishop had been dead for a few days when his body was recovered. The cause of death has still not been reported.

According to AsiaNews, Archbishop Rahho suffered poor health and needed daily medication, following a heart attack some years ago.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement: "We had all continued to hope and pray for his release, something the Pope had requested on a number of occasions in his appeals.

"Unfortunately the most senseless and unjustified violence continues to be inflicted on the Iraqi people, and especially on the small Christian community to which the Pope and all of us are particularly close in prayer and solidarity at this moment of great suffering."

"It is to be hoped," Father Lombardi concluded, "that this tragic event may once more -- and more powerfully -- underline the responsibility of everyone, and especially of the international community, for the pacification of so troubled a country."

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