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Via Media

Priest and 3 sub-deacons killed in Mosul:

An armed group gunned down and killed Fr Ragheed Ganni and three of his aides. The murder took place right after Sunday mass in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul where Father Ragheed was parish priest. Sources told AsiaNews that hours later the bodies were still lying in the street because no one dared retrieve them. Given the situation tensions in the area remain high.

For some time since the fall of Saddam Hussein Christians have become victims of what amounts to an open campaign of persecution often denounced by Chaldean and Orthodox bishops.


Father Ragheed himself had been targeted several times in previous attacks. The Church of the Holy Spirit has also been repeatedly attacked and bombed in the last few years, the last time occurred but a few months ago.

Father Ganni was a great friend of AsiaNews. He had studied in Italy and was fluent in Arabic as well as Italian, French and English. In 2005 he had visited Italy where he gave testimony during the Vigil to Eucharistic Congress in Bari.

Updated information:

Meanwhile new information surrounding the nature of the attack has come to light. After celebrating Sunday mass, Fr Ragheed and his three aides were leaving the Parish by car, accompanied by the wife of one of the sub-deacons,, Gassan Isam Bidawed. In recent days the three insisted on accompanying Fr Ragheed to protect him. “They were young men alive with faith, who accompanied their parish priests every more, risking their lives for their belief in Christ”, their friends tell. Suddenly, at the corner of the road, their car is blocked by unknown armed men militants who order the woman to distance herself from the others and then, in cold blood, shoot the remaining passengers, repeatedly. The aggressor’s then booby trapped the car with explosives; with the aim of further carnage should anyone near the car to recover the bodies. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the bodies remained, abandoned on the city street, because no one dared to approach. It was only towards ten pm (Local time) that security forces finally defused the explosives allowing corpses to be recovered. They now lie in repose in the Church of the Holy Spirit.


From that event:

The Eucharist is a source of life even when one’s daily experience is death. This is true for Mosul (northern Iraq), a city where residents constantly live in fear of kidnappings and car bombs, but where churches remain open and Christians go to mass in great numbers because "without the Eucharist life would be impossible".

Fr Ragheed Ganni, 33, a Chaldean clergyman from Mosul is a witness to the Eucharist’s power. After leaving his city, he reached Bari (southern Italy) via Aleppo and Rome. Here, on May 28, on the eve of the Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the city, he spoke about his experience.


After seven years in Italy, Father Ragheed went back to his native Iraq in November 2003. In the last year, he has seen several anti-Christian attacks in the diocese of Mosul.

Here is what he said during Saturday’s vigil.

"Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live."
"This is true today when evil has reached the point of destroying churches and killing Christians, something unheard of in Iraq till now."

"On June 2004 of last year, a group of young women was cleaning the church to get it ready for Sunday service. My sister Raghad, who is 19, was among them."


"As she was carrying a pail of water to wash the floor, two men drove up and threw a grenade that blew up just a few yards away from her."

"She was wounded but miraculously survived. And on that Sunday we still celebrated the Eucharist. My shaken parents were also there.

"For me and my community, my sister’s wounds were a source of strength so that we, too, may bear our cross."

"Last August in St Paul Church, a car bomb exploded after the 6 pm mass. The blast killed two Christians and wounded many others. But that, too, was another miracle?the car was full of bombs but only one exploded. Had they all gone off together the dead would have been in the hundreds since 400 faithful had come on that day."


"People could not believe what had happened. The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back."

"On December 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception, a group of terrorist tried to destroy the Chaldean Bishop’s Residence, which is near Our Lady of the Tigris Shrine, a place venerated by both Christians and Muslims."

"They placed explosives everywhere and a few minutes later blew the place up. This and fundamentalist violence against young Christians have forced many families to flee. Yet the Churches have remained open and people continue to go to mass, even among the ruins".


"It is among such difficulties that we understand the real value of Sunday, the day when we meet the Risen Christ, the day of our unity and love, of our [mutual] support and help."

"There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God Behold, who takes away the sin of the world’, I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love."
"In normal times, everything is taken for granted and we forget the greatest gift that is made to us. Ironically, it is thanks to terrorist violence that we have truly learnt that it is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and risen, that gives us life. And this allows us to resist and hope."

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posted June 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm

“For some time since the fall of Saddam Hussein Christians have become victims of what amounts to an open campaign of persecution”
Yet another example of how the invasion has made life worse for Iraq and why it was so diabolically wrong.

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Donald R. McClarey

posted June 3, 2007 at 8:50 pm

“Yet another example of how the invasion has made life worse for Iraq and why it was so diabolically wrong.”
Yeah, life was so sweet for Christians under Saddam, if you overlook the Christians who died in the wars he started against Iran and Kuwait, and the Christians who were part of the 300k plus Iraqis who Saddam turned into landfill in mass graves. What the violence against Christians throughout the Islamic world, and not just in Iraq, demonstrates is that the Jihadists will not rest until all Christians, and non-muslims in general, are driven out or dead from majority Islamic nations. After that they will attempt to do the same throughout the globe. Ignoring this will not bring peace, but only lead to mass slaughter.

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MMajor Fan

posted June 3, 2007 at 9:19 pm

I am immeasurably sad at their murder.

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posted June 3, 2007 at 9:29 pm

And what is the Bush administration doing about the many Christian Chaldeans who are either still in Iraq or have already fled as refugees? I’m guessing that the answer is Nothing! Absolutely Nothing! No asylum in the USA! No visas for the Christians.
On the other hand regarding the 12 million illegal aliens already here……..well, that’s another story.

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bill bannon

posted June 3, 2007 at 10:53 pm

A question I have is whether Catholics ought remain there and should Rome take up a collection and make diplomatic arrangements with potential host countries to support their leaving and relocating.
On the one hand is the function of a leaven role. But on the other hand is the angels/strangers leading Lot’s family out of Sodom and not staying there at all to leaven anyone…and Christ’s instructions about those towns that were not receptive of the disciples…to whit…shake off the dust of your feet as a witness against them. And we had Christ leaving one town due to its little faith and at which He could do little
in the way of miracles so little was their faith. All throughout the epistles, the writers wish peace to their audience.

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posted June 3, 2007 at 11:44 pm

I knew Fr. Ragheed when we were seminarians in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. He was a gentleman and always very cheerful even in spite of his long enforced separation from his family.
I am told that he was not sure whether to stay in Iraq at the beginning of the invasion and then as the attacks began, but he decided to stay with his parishoners as he felt that this was his responsibility and mission as a priest.
I am deeply saddened and sorry for him and the Church in Iraq.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 12:20 am

Muslims and their demonic religion are the murderers here MAB. Why don’t you apportion blame where it belongs? Lately there are any number of commentators telling us that that they had the post-war situation nailed way back in 2003. In truth though much of the opposition to the war was driven by the fear that GWB was going to ride on an easy victory to consolidate the Right in America along with the position of the US in the rest of the world. Notwithstanding the huge hospital ships they had parked in the Gulf, we all knew that the Americans were going to take Bagdhad with chalk.
In the meantime the Vatican gave us bromides like “war doesn’t solve anything” (as though war did not permanently solve the problem of German and Japanese militarism) instead of truly articulating our fears; that yes we all prefer tyrants like Saddam and Musharraf to the seething mobs of the Ummah.

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Fr. John Pecoraro

posted June 4, 2007 at 1:17 am

(Sts.) Fr Ragheed Ganni and Companions: Martyrs Pray for us.

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Fr. John Pecoraro

posted June 4, 2007 at 1:19 am

(Sts.) Fr Ragheed Ganni and Companions: Martyrs Pray for us.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 4:47 am

The Catechism states forthrightly that “legitimate defense” (Nos.2263ff) is in keeping with the faith. The day is coming when Christian men must gather, not as an adversary to Islam, but for the noble virtue of chivalry.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 4:49 am

“….Without the Sunday Eucharist, we cannot live.” That was the testimony of the martyrs of Abitina in 3rd century North Africa, too: “Sine dominico, non possumus.”
Fr. Ragheed Ganni and companions, martyrs, pray for us.

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Clare Krishan

posted June 4, 2007 at 8:35 am

Pray. Imagine hearts being changed, even in arid Iraq… we are all fallen children of Eve.
Inspirational Hungarian sandartist Ferenc Cako interprets the first chapters of Genesis using an overhead projector, his hands and sand in this YouTube clip from 2003.
Truely, originality points to The Origin (Antonin Gaudi) and human free will is an awesome gift.
May Our Divine Maker have mercy on the souls of the faithful departed and may they rest in peace, Amen.

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Thomas More

posted June 4, 2007 at 8:37 am

I rarely comment here anymore and do so under a new name. But this situation and Donald’s typically reflexive response on a question involving Iraq has caused me to venture out into the blogosphere again.
First, by way of background, while never totally convinced of the war’s justice (or injustice), I supported it. I trotted out the various just war arguments and said things like, “The President is the one charged with the common good” and “The President knows things we don’t.” I even continued to support the war during that first year and half. I am generally conservative and before the war would probably have been considered a neoconservative. But how Donald and others can so callously disregard OUR responsibility for the mess that now exists is beyond me. No one is denying that Saddam Hussein was a bad, bad man. Things were very bad for his people. But you and I weren’t responsible — or at least no where as responsible — for that horrible situation. We DO bear a large responsibility for the chaos that now engulfs Iraq.
It seems undeniable — unless one is allowing ideology rather than facts guide one’s judgment — that the situation of Christians before this war was better than it is now. The stability that then existed came at a terrible price, no doubt. But that still doesn’t meant that Christians qua Christians were not better off than they are now. And while we aren’t the ones killing and driving them from Iraq now, we bear a great, great responsibility for setting up the conditions that have allowed that to happen.
The irony of Donald’s words about Jihadists is that this war was waged in part to help democracy and freedom find a foothold in the Middle East. We were told that this would help drain the swamp of Jihadism. Far from draining the swamp, we seem to have helped provide the conditions for that Jihadism to flourish. (Also, it isn’t clear who is doing much of this persecution. From what I gather it includes those we are reputably trying to help in Iraq. In other words, we aren’t talking about certain extreme elements but rather broad swaths of the population who we have unleashed by removing the lid that kept all the chaos in place.)
I don’t entirely understand Ivan’s comments, but he seems to be saying that those now claiming that this was all so predictable, didn’t actually foresee this. I would suggest reading the beginning of the book “Fiasco” by Thomas Ricks. His review of all those who were predicting this sort of outcome back in 2002-2003 was eye-opening for me. We aren’t talking about ideologues, but sober policy analysts — some conservatives, some liberals. And, in fact, there have been numerous conservatives who predicted just this very sort of outcome in Iraq. Now perhaps much of this was droned out by anti-Bush hate, but the fact remains that there were numerous voices — including the Vatican — warning us of this sort of outcome. For whatever reasons, we (I am included in this) didn’t hear or listen. Rather than digging in deeper and trotting out tired lines, perhaps we would do well to recognize reality. That this hasn’t been the “cakewalk” that we were promised — and if you don’t believe this was what was promised or expected why was the post-war planning so incredibly shoddy (read non-existent). We have exchanged one form of madness for another in Iraq. And, yes, I do believe we, as Americans, bear a certain responsibility for that. We can recognize that without saying Saddam was good, that Jihadists are good, that those who killed here bear primary responsibility, etc. But we fail to recognize it at our own peril.

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Patricia Gonzalez

posted June 4, 2007 at 10:15 am

May God grant eternal rest to the souls of His courageous martyrs. Centuries ago, Tertullian (I think ) commented that “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” I pray that we here in our comfortable North American pews keep in mind daily the sufferings that our brothers and sister undergo daily in Iraq and other Muslim countries (e.g., Pakistan). Father Ganni and companions, pray for us.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 12:07 pm

God will use this for good. I will pray for the souls of Fr Ragheed Ganni and his companions and will continue to pray for the Christians of the Middle East.

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Donald R. McClarey

posted June 4, 2007 at 12:27 pm

“We have exchanged one form of madness for another in Iraq.”
Only if we allow the Jihadists to win. That issue is completely in our hands. We have the military power to defeat the Jihadists in Iraq and around the globe. Whether we have the will to do so remains to be seen. Additionally, unless your real name is Thomas More, I suggest that it is very poor form to use a Saint’s name as a Nom de Internet.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 12:46 pm

The US did bear some responsibility for Saddam; most of the current terrorists are foreign. I’m still not completely convinced that it was the best idea to go into Iraq, but it would be worse to not finish it. Perhaps going to Kurdistan or the US would be best for now. It’s really annoying and tacky when someone brings up politics at a funeral, though, especially when the family is so divided about it.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 1:41 pm

“In the meantime the Vatican gave us bromides”
That really says all you need to know about the priority of ideology over Catholic teaching, in some quarters.
Jesus Christ and His “bromides”, Pope John Paul II and his “bromides.”
What was it that Chesterton said? Something like: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

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posted June 4, 2007 at 5:05 pm

A horrible event. May the souls of these faithful martyrs rest in peace for all eternity, in the presence of the triune God.
There they join Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and millions of others through the centuries, all witnesses to Jesus Christ.

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deacon john m. bresnahan

posted June 4, 2007 at 6:43 pm

These deacons were doing one of the roles deacons regularly did in the early Church–provided protection for the priests. I wonder how many of us deacons in the U.S. realize we are now in the company of those priests and nuns who were prime targets for murderers in the French, Spanish, and Russian Revolutions and today wherever Moslems are in the majority.

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posted June 8, 2007 at 9:44 pm

I hope Ragheed that your sacrifice was not in vain. You deserve greater than that. Miss you.

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