Archbishop Rahho Not Alone, Says Spokesman

Still, Case of Iraq Particularly Worrying

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2008 ( Though the slain archbishop of Mosul is not alone on the list of prelates who have given their lives in service to the Church, the situation of Iraq is particularly worrying, said a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, spoke about the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho on the last edition of Vatican Television’s “Octava Dies.”

Archbishop Rahho died sometime after being kidnapped on Feb. 29. His body was found last Thursday.

“Now his personal Way of the Cross, that of his life, together with his Church and his people, has ended with his death,” Father Lombardi lamented. “We are thunderstruck before such inhuman, incomprehensible and mysterious cruelty. ‘Mysterium iniquitatis.’ The mystery of evil and its power. The blood of martyrs responds to it — men of peace, of love who transcend hatred and death.”

Father Lombardi noted that the case of Archbishop Rahho is unfortunately not unique: “Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of San Salvador, [1917-1980] murdered while he celebrated the Eucharist; Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo [1926-1993], [murdered] in Guadalajara, Mexico; the Colombian [prelates] Isaías Duarte Cancino [1939-2002], archbishop of Cali, and Jesús Emilio Jaramillo [1916-1989], bishop of Arauca, murdered by guerrillas; the nuncio Archbishop Michael Courtney [1945-2003], murdered in Burundi — all come to mind.

“And for each bishop, how many priests, how many faithful, how many innocent people murdered in the Americas, in Africa and Asia! Where the people die, the Church dies with them, because she lives in them. And it cannot be any other way!”

Still, Father Lombardi contended, “the small Christian community in Iraq, in its numeric fragility, appears to be particularly needful of our solidarity and our prayer. It is a very ancient community, which has survived countless similar events, but in the current dramatic situation in really runs the risk of near extinction.”

He cited Benedict XVI’s message of condolence in which the Pope prayed that “this tragic event [would] serve to build a future of peace in the martyred country of Iraq.”

Father Lombardi added: “[W]e all hope that such violence will shake up and reawaken the consciences of all those who can contribute with the most effectiveness to the building of peace. In faith, after the conclusion of the Way of the Cross, we await the Resurrection.”

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