An update on this story, and a reminder of the meaning of “martyrdom” in the Western sense, as opposed to the usual way we hear about it in connection with jihadist attacks. “Archbishop kidnapped in Iraq dead,” by Sameer N. Yacoub for the Associated Press:
BAGHDAD – The body of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped in Iraq last month was found just outside the northern city of Mosul, officials said Thursday.
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was seized by gunmen in Mosul soon after he left Mass on Feb. 29. Three of his companions were killed, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq’s small Christian community.
Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, said the church in Mosul had received a phone call from the kidnappers on Wednesday telling them the archbishop was dead. They also told church officials where they could find the body.
“We are hurt by this painful incident,” Warduni told The Associated Press.
A Mosul police officer and morgue official said Rahho’s body was found just outside the city.
It was not clear whether the kidnappers had killed the archbishop or whether he had died from health problems. A medical examiner in the morgue, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the body had been buried and showed no signs of being shot. The examiner said Rahho might have been dead for a few days.
At the time of the kidnapping, Rabban al-Qas, the bishop of the northern Iraqi cities of Irbil and Amadiyah, said the church was concerned because Rahho had health problems, which he did not specify.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had been informed of Rahho’s death and was “deeply saddened.” Benedict called on the international community to intensify efforts to promote reconciliation in Iraq following the “tragic event,” said spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.
“We had all kept hoping and praying for his release,” Lombardi said in a written statement. “Unfortunately the most absurd and senseless violence keeps dogging the Iraqi people, and especially the small Christian community.”
The Chaldean church is an Eastern-rite denomination that recognizes the authority of the pope and is aligned with Rome. […]
In a November interview with AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency, Rahho had said the situation in Mosul was not improving and “religious persecution is more noticeable than elsewhere because the city is split along religious lines.”
“Everyone is suffering from this war irrespective of religious affiliation, but in Mosul, Christians face starker choices,” he told the news agency.
At the time of his kidnapping, the Vatican said the fact that the gunmen knew Rahho had been celebrating a religious rite indicated the attack was premeditated.