Pope Urges Release of Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

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MOSUL, Iraq, FEB. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI urged the release of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul who was abducted by gunmen today in the northern Iraqi city.

AsiaNews reported that Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho had just left Mosul's Holy Spirit Cathedral when he was kidnapped in the al-Nour district in the eastern section of the city. Three people who accompanied him were killed.

"Archbishop Rahho had just finished the Way of the Cross, a religious practice very beloved by the faithful of Iraq and which brings ample participation. This leads one to believe that the criminal act was premeditated," the Vatican press office stated in a communiqué.

"Gunmen opened fire on the car, killed the other three and kidnapped the archbishop," a Mosul police official told Reuters.

The Holy See's note added: "Saddened by this new abominable act, which profoundly affects all of the Church in the country, and in particular the Chaldean Church, the Pope expresses his closeness to the patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and all of the afflicted community, as well as the relatives of the victims.

"The Pontiff invites the universal Church to unite in fervent prayer so that reason and compassion prevail in the kidnappers and Archbishop Rahho is given back as soon as possible to his flock."

Bishop Rabban al-Qas of Arbil told AsiaNews: "The bishop is in terrorist hands, but we don't know in what physical state. The three men who were with him, including his driver, were killed.

"It is a terrible moment for our Church. Please, pray for us."