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A Bereaved Community Mourns At The News
By Huda Metti :: Thursday, March 13, 2008 :: 79712 Views :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Mosul, IRAQ – The Chaldean community around the world stand numb and in disbelief as news of Archbishop Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul is dead.

Outcry from world leaders swayed no influence as fanatical terrorists proved once more that no women, children, medical providers, and now spiritual leaders are safe from their killing spree.  “These are innocent people that want to help bring peace.  They kill them, because they are filled with hate.  These barbarians have no faith in anything, but their own rise to power,” said Omar Touma, a recent refugee and Chaldean parishioner of the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Canada.   

Text of the news, mournful cries, and prayer messages quickly traveled via e-mail and phone messaging reporting the sorrowful news.  Our Bishop is dead, decried one message as images of weeping families huddled together comforting one another. 

The kidnappers had been demanding a heavy ransom, Church officials say.  When requests were made to speak to the Archbishop the kidnappers replied that the archbishop was dead and gave gave instructions on how Church officials could recover the archbishop's body.

The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul had been dead for at least five days before his body was found this morning by some members of the Church, following information provided by the kidnappers themselves.  This timeline is provided by the autopsy conducted on the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, found in an abandoned area outside of the city, which is in part used as a trash dump. 

Archbishop Rahho was seized outside the Holy Spirit cathedral in Mosul after conducting a Stations of the Cross service on Friday, February 29. Three parishioners 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 Rahho was alive and well. The archbishop, who was 69, suffered from a serious heart condition and needed daily medication.

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.

Mosul confirms its place as the most dangerous city for the Christian community, the presence of which has dropped by over 75% since 2003.   Christians remain the soft target for insurgents terrorists and criminal gangs to raise money and fund their ongoing operations. 

After the Iraqi government and coalition forces systematically began turning off funding sources for these militant and criminal groups, their focus turned towards Christians.  Iraqi Christians tend to be educated professionals and considered wealthy.  They also offer less of a risk in way of having a pro-Islamic police force aggressively peruse the crimes since the victims are Christians and maintain a dhimmi status under Islamic law. 

The attacks have created a brain-drain in Iraq as the professionals flee the country in large numbers.  Professors, doctors, scientists, and engineers have fled into neighboring regions or across the ocean seeking safe harbor. 

After Fr Ragheed Gani was slaughtered on June 3 information revealed that the terrorists were politically motivated to drive Christians out of Iraq.  Many consider the indigenous Iraqis that were able to maintain their Christian identity and keep from being converted or conquered by Muslim raiders in the early centuries a moderate balance to the region.  The belief is held strongly by fanatical Muslims who are systematicaly driving out the church in hopes of creating a more fundamental Islamic Iraq.  

The latest wave of violence against the church came from January 6-17, 2008, when a series of explosions struck the Chaldean Church of Mary Immaculate, the Chaldean Church of St Paul, which was almost destroyed, the entryway to the orphanage run by the Chaldean sisters in al Nour, a Nestorian church, and the convent of the Dominican sisters of Mosul Jadida.

“Our faith is in Jesus who died for the sins of humanity.  He will find favor in our Chaldean Martyr who offered nothing but peace, hope, and love,” says Touma.  “May bishop Raho rest in the arms of our Lord and may God show mercy on those that continue to hate.  They will not scatter the Chaldean flock because they have killed our shepherd.  Our faith will now grow even stronger.”

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.