Chaldean bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho died while being held by kidnappers, both the Vatican and Iraq have announced. Rahho’s abductors buried the body and notified the Iraqi authorities of his death, although they didn’t say how the chronically ill Rahho died. An autopsy has been ordered:
The kidnappers had telephoned to inform the Baghdad prelate that Rahho, who was in poor health, had died and that they had buried him, the Italian Roman Catholic Church’s SIR news agency reported, quoting the auxiliary archbishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni.
“The kidnappers had told us already (Wednesday) that Monsignor Rahho was very ill, and yesterday afternoon they told us that he died. This morning, they telephoned us to say they had buried him,” Warduni said, adding that the kidnappers indicated the location of the body.
“We still don’t know whether he died from his poor health or was killed,” Warduni said. “The kidnappers only told us that he was dead.”
The archbishop is the highest-ranking Christian cleric to have died while being held by kidnappers in Iraq.
It’s unfortunate, and it points out that even with the significant progress being made, Iraq still has its dangers. The abduction of Rahho seems particularly heartless, considering his health and his mission in Iraq. Once his poor health had become known, one would have expected the kidnappers to have understood the liability of holding him for any time at all.
More will be known after the autopsy. Rahho may have died from natural causes, but the stress of the kidnapping couldn’t have helped, either — and it may be murder as well. In either case, pray for the bishop and the rest of Iraq.
The apparent kidnappers had contacted relatives on Thursday and told them the body was in the eastern part of town. Relatives and authorities went to the location and found the body, which had gunshot wounds.
Profiles in jihadi courage: executing a sick old man who only wanted to promote peace and understanding in Iraq.