Slain Iraqi Prelate Chosen for Peace Award

Archbishop Raho Promoted Religious Freedom

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NEW YORK, JUNE 2, 2009 ( Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho will be posthumously honored with the 2009 Path to Peace award for his promotion of religious freedom and intercultural tolerance.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, announced Monday the decision to bestow the award on the deceased Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Iraq.

Paulos Faraj Rahho was born in Mosul in 1942, and spent most of his life in this city that claims one of the oldest Christian communities.

After his priestly ordination he served in the parishes and opened an orphanage for disabled children.

He became the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul in 2001, and took responsibility for some 20,000 Catholics in 10 parishes.

A press release from the Path to Peace foundation, an organization that carries out projects to support the work of the Holy See mission to the United Nations, reported that the archbishop «expressed disquiet at the moves to incorporate Shariah law more fundamentally into the Iraqi constitution.»

He «continued throughout his life to lead worship in difficult situations» and despite the adversities facing Christians, he encouraged them to stay in Mosul.

The prelate «pushed for tolerance among all factions,» the statement added.

The archbishop was kidnapped February 2008 outside of a church where he had led the Way of the Cross on a Lenten Friday. During the kidnapping, his three companions were killed.

For days there was no news from the archbishop or his kidnappers. Finally, after a phone call from the assailants, the prelate’s body was found March 13 in a shallow grave. He was 65.

The foundation noted that «in the context of the debate on intercultural and interreligious dialogue currently taking place at the United Nations,» they decided to honor «a deeply-felt and precious testimony in favor of the urgency to respect and promote everywhere in the world the fundamental right to religious freedom.»

The award will be given June 9 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

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