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 Slain Prelate Sowed Justice in "Martyred" Iraq

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PostSubject: Slain Prelate Sowed Justice in "Martyred" Iraq   March 18th 2008, 11:18 am

Benedict XVI Offers Memorial Mass for Archbishop Rahho

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2008 - The kidnapped archbishop of Mosul found dead last week was a man who contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and the whole world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he celebrated a memorial Mass in the Vatican for the soul of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul of the Chaldeans, Iraq.

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped Feb. 29 in a shoot-out that resulted in the deaths of his driver and two guards.

Last Thursday, his body was found in a shallow grave, showing signs he had been dead for a few days.

The Holy Father assured that he is spiritually close to the members of the "beloved Church in Iraq, which suffers, believes and prays," and expressed the hope that "in the faith they may find the strength not to lose heart in the difficult situation they are experiencing."

Truth and lies

The Pontiff recalled the liturgy of Holy Week, which presents the last days of Jesus' earthly life. "Those hours," he said, were marked by a clear "contrast between truth and lies, between the mildness and rectitude of Christ and the violence and dishonesty of his enemies." The Lord "felt the approach of his violent death; he felt his persecutors' net tightening around him, [...] the anguish and fear, up to the crucial moment in Gethsemane." But Christ "experienced all this immersed in communion with the Father and comforted by the 'anointing' of the Holy Spirit."

Benedict XVI mentioned today's Gospel reading on the anointing of Christ in Bethany, then enumerated Archbishop Rahho's own "anointings" during his life, from baptism and confirmation to his ordination as a priest and then bishop.

"But I am also thinking," the Holy Father continued, "of the many 'anointings' of filial affection and spiritual friendship [...] which his faithful gave him and which accompanied him in the terrible hours of his kidnapping and his painful detention -- where perhaps he was already wounded when he arrived -- and even unto his agony, his death and that unworthy grave where his mortal remains were found."

"Those sacramental and spiritual anointings were a guarantee of resurrection, a guarantee of the true and full life that the Lord Jesus came to give us," he added.

Fraternity and respect

Benedict XVI also remarked on the reading from Isaiah on the servant of the Lord who will bring, proclaim and establish justice.

The servant, "faced with an unjust condemnation, bears witness to the truth, remaining faithful to the law of love," the Pope said. "On this path, Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord Jesus, thus he contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and to the whole world, bearing witness to the truth.

"He was a man of peace and dialogue [...] with a particular fondness for the poor and the disabled. [...] May his example sustain all Iraqis of good will, Christians and Muslims, to build peaceful coexistence founded on human fraternity and mutual respect."

"Over these days, in profound union with the Chaldean community in Iraq and abroad, we have wept his death and the inhuman way in which he was compelled to end his earthly life," the Holy Father concluded. "But today in this Eucharist [...] we wish to give thanks to God for all the good he achieved in Archbishop Rahho.

"At the same time, we hope that, from heaven, he may intercede with the Lord to obtain for the faithful in that sorely-tried land the courage to continue to work for a better future."

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