Mosul, Mar. 13, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Bishop Paulos Faraj Raho of Mosul, the Iraqi prelate who was kidnapped by gunmen on February 29, is dead.
The kidnappers of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop, who had been demanding a heavy ransom, told Church officials that the archbishop was dead, AsiaNews reports. The kidnappers reportedly gave instructions on how Church officials could recover the archbishop's body.
Archbishop Raho was seized outside the Holy Spirit cathedral in Mosul after conducting a Stations of the Cross service on Friday, February 29. His driver and two bodyguards were killed by the gunmen who abducted the archbishop.
In the days since the kidnapping, Church leaders had pleaded in vain for some clear evidence that Archbishop Raho was alive and well. The archbishop, who was 69, suffered from a serious heart condition and needed daily medication. It remains unclear whether Archbishop Raho died of that heart ailment or was killed by his abductors.
Informed of the prelate's death, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) issued a statement condemning "an act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human being."
The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown. Although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had ordered an all-out effort to locate the archbishop and secure his release, troops were unsuccessful in their search around Mosul-- a city dominated by insurgents and terrorists.
While the kidnappers did ask for a large money ransom, they were evidently not motivated solely by the desire for financial gain. Church spokesmen said that their demands included political conditions-- an indication that the archbishop's abduction was arranged by a terrorist group rather than simply a criminal gang.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.