Archbishop’s death a sad moment for all Iraqis

OTTAWA – “I am saddened by the death of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, a man of faith committed to peace, justice and pluralism,” said the Most Rev. Terrence T. Prendergast, S.J., Archbishop of Ottawa and Chair of CNEWA Canada. “I join Cardinal Patriarch Emmanuel III Delli, the Chaldean Church, all Christians in Iraq and all Iraqis in mourning the untimely death of a man of God, an apostle of dialogue and cooperation.”

Beginning in August 2004, attacks on Iraq’s Christian minority have intensified, reaching unprecedented levels of cruelty. Last summer, Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was gunned down after celebrating the liturgy at his parish in Mosul. Tens of thousands of families have been forced to leave their homes at gun point, finding security in isolated pockets of refuge in Iraq or in neighboring Jordan or Syria. Others have witnessed family members and friends kidnapped and killed. Many have been forced to convert to Islam.

The United Nations estimates that more than 30 percent of all Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria are Christian; Iraq’s pre-war Christian community was estimated at 4 percent of the nation’s total population.

“The kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho and his subsequent death are acts directed to discourage Iraqi Christians who want to stay in their homeland,” said Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada’s national secretary. “Such violence also reminds those who have fled not to return home.”

“I invite the people of Canada and especially my fellow Catholics to continue to show their concern in this difficult hour for the Christians of Iraq,” said Archbishop Prendergast.

“To the extent that is possible, I encourage them to support CNEWA Canada’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi refugees, particularly Iraqi Christian families living in exile.”

CNEWA is an agency of the Holy See, working for more than 80 years in supporting the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India and Northeast Africa.

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