BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 23:38 GMT
Iraqi archbishop death condemned
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, November 2007
Archbishop Rahho's body was found buried near Mosul
The death in Iraq of an archbishop who was kidnapped two weeks ago has provoked furious condemnation.

The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, was found in a shallow grave in the city after a tip-off from his captors.

Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply moved and saddened, calling the death an act of inhuman violence.

Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki said it was a horrible crime aimed at stirring strife between Iraq's religious communities.

Shia and Sunni Muslim leaders have expressed their condemnation, while US President George W Bush branded it a "despicable act of violence".

'Absurd violence'

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped after leading prayers at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul on 29 February. Three of his aides were killed in the abduction.

550,000 Chaldeans, forming majority of Iraq's Christians
Eastern-rite church with liturgical language, Syriac, descended from Aramaic
Autonomous from Rome but recognises Pope's authority
Spiritual leader Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, based in Baghdad

Iraqi police say the condition of the archbishop's body, which bore no bullet wounds, suggests he may have died at least a week ago.

According to the SIR Catholic news agency, the kidnappers told Iraqi church officials on Wednesday that Archbishop Rahho was very ill and, later on the same day, that he was dead.

It is not clear whether he was killed, or died of natural causes. Nobody has claimed responsibility for his death.

The archbishop's body was found by church workers who went to the area after being contacted by the kidnappers.

The 65-year-old archbishop was the latest in a long line of Chaldean clerics to be abducted in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

Iraqi Christians praying in Mosul, December 2007
Many Christians in Iraq have left due to insurgent attacks

The Chaldean bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, said: "I cry for Iraq, I have no other feelings. We were brothers."

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said: "The most absurd and unjustified violence continues to afflict the Iraqi people and in particular the small Christian community, whom the Pope holds in his prayers in this time of deep sadness."

The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says centuries of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and the small Christian community in Iraq were shattered by the US-led invasion of 2003.

Fundamentalists linked Christians with an occupation force they regarded as "crusaders", and numerous Christians and their business have been attacked, he says.

The Chaldeans are the largest sect within Iraq's Christian community, which was estimated at 800,000 before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Have you been affected by this story? Are you a Chaldean - or any other religious minority - in Iraq?

A great man of God's men ,"Abuna" as we called him in the 1970s. He pesonally helped me to rent a room with a family in Mosul. Being a Muslim myself made no difference to his support and privilleged words of wisdom he had always offered.
Farid, Guildford

It is a very sad day for all the Iraqi Christian community all over the world. Archbishop Rahho was a prominent figure in the city of Mosul and his people were inspired by his charismatic personality. I was lucky to work with him and influenced by his teaching before fleeing Iraq 8 years ago. He was known for his work with the youth, the poor and was the founder of the Love and Happiness charity which looks after people with learning difficulties in Iraq. He leaves his peace-loving small community with grim and uncertain future living among extremists and Muslim fanatics. May his soul rest in peace.
Dr Omar Alisha, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK

Email address:
Town and Country:
Phone number (optional):

The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

Mourners gather after hearing the news

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific