The body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was buried again today.
The Archbishop was kidnapped on his way home from Mass on February 29th; the three aides who accompanied him were killed at the scene.
This snatching of Rahho was allegedly to use the priest as a hostage card to be played for money and the release of selected prisoners. However, it obviously went wrong somewhere along the line because the kidnappers called and told church authorities they could find his body by going to an empty lot in Mosul.
His body was found in a shallow grave, just as the terrorists had explained. Authorities say he had been dead at least five days, which puts his death on or around March 8th. There were no marks or bullet holes in Archbishop Rahho, so the cause of his death remains undetermined. Given that he was 67 and somewhat overweight, he may have suffered a fatal, stress-induced heart attack.
Backing up my intuition is this mention in Catholic World News:
Concerns about the welfare of the missing archbishop are intensified because of his uncertain physical health, the AsiaNews service reports. (Archbishop Rahho needs daily medication for a serious heart condition.) To complicate matters, the search for the kidnappers and their victim is hampered by the weak position of government forces in Mosul, a city dominated by insurgents and terrorists.
[Jihad Kidnapping, Lesson # 25. If you’re after money or jailbirds kidnap only the healthy young. Otherwise, your hostage’s body may come to control your actions. The decomposing remains of a man, even a beloved, saintly man, are not worth much, are they?]
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Thousands of mourners gathered in the Christian village of Kremlis, Iraq today to bury Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was discovered yesterday.
The funeral procession included a throng of thousands who cried and wailed as the archbishop’s coffin was carried on the shoulders of about ten men. Security was very tight with a large number of soldiers as well as armored vehicles patrolling the village center.
Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who is the head [made a Cardinal of the Chaldean Catholic Church by Benedict XVI last October] wept as he led the funeral Mass for the archbishop and called on Christians not to seek revenge for their shepherd’s death.
In the LA Times there in a blog section. “Babylon and Beyond” is featured there. In the header it announces Complete coverage of Iraq, Iran, Israel and the rest of the Mideast:
Iraq’s scared and dwindling Christian community has nothing to do with the sectarian or ethnic troubles afflicting the country. No Christian Iraqi took up arms against anybody, formed a militia, set roadside bombs, or even tried to block the formation of a government.
More than anyone else, Iraq’s Christians have been struggling just to survive against a torrent of troubles.
All of which makes the death of the 67-year-old Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho all the more tragic and troubling.
Do you think they chose the Archbishop because they thought the Roman Catholic Church would come up with the money?
Middle East Online has its version of the story:
“He worked day and night in the church,” Cardinal Delly told the mourners on Friday, many of them spilling into the street outside the overcrowded church.
“He was brave, deeply faithful to the service of the church. He spent his life serving the church honestly and peacefully. He was one of those who died and shed their blood for sake of duty.”
It is not yet known whether Rahho died from natural causes or was killed — there were no bullet wounds to his body. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and others are treating the death as murder.
The website of Christian-sponsored Ishtar television said the kidnappers moved three times during the two weeks of captivity because the area where they were holding Rahho was raided twice.
The kidnappers had demanded that they be paid three million dollars for Rahho’s release.
Rahho was the latest in a line of Chaldean clerics to be abducted since the US-led invasion of Iraq five years ago.
Two priests were kidnapped in the city in October, and last June a priest and three deacons were attacked in front of their church.
A Christian, Joseph Iskander, said the aim of the kidnapping was to “make problems between communities. It is not about money.”
Another Christian, who asked not to be named, said: “All Christians in Baghdad and Mosul are mourning this disaster,” he said. “He was a good person, he liked to help everyone, Christians and Muslims. What did they gain from killing him? They are criminals who want to kill Muslims and Christians for the sake of money.”
Requiescat in Pace, Archbishop Rahho.