Vatican City, Mar 18, 2008 (vaticans.org) - On Monday morning the Holy Father presided at a Mass for the soul of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldeans, who died in tragic circumstances following his kidnapping on February 29. The Pontiff described the archbishop as taking up his cross to follow Christ.
The Pope spoke of his closeness to the members of the "beloved Church which suffers, believes and prays in Iraq" and expressed the hope that "in the faith they may find the strength not to lose heart in the difficult situation they are experiencing."
The Holy Father also tied in today's Gospel reading about the anointing of Christ in Bethany with Archbishop Rahho's own "anointings" during his life, both sacramental and spiritual.
He first mentioned the sacramental anointings: Baptism, Confirmation and his Ordination as a priest and then bishop. "But I am also thinking", he 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.
Benedict XVI also remarked on the reading from the prophet Isaiah on the Servant of the Lord who will bring, proclaim and establish justice. "The insistence on this term," said the Pope, "cannot pass unobserved." The Servant "faced with an unjust condemnation bears witness to the truth, remaining faithful to the law of love."
The Holy Father continued: "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.”
The Pope praised God for the holiness of the archbishop: "Over these days, in profound union with the Chaldean community in Iraq and abroad, we have wept for his death and the inhuman way in which he was compelled to end his earthly life. But today in this Eucharist ... we wish to give thanks to God for all the good He achieved in Archbishop Rahho.
Finally he prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Rahho. “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.”
Mosul, Iraq, Mar.14,2008 (vaticans.org) - The Chaldean archbishop of Mosul is dead. Archbishop Faraj Rahho was kidnapped last February 29 after the Stations of the Cross. His kidnappers gave word of his death, indicating to the mediators where they could recover the body of the 67-year-old prelate. "It is a heavy Cross for our Church, ahead of Easter", Bishop Rabban of Arbil tells AsiaNews in response to the news. Leaders of the Chaldean Church, including Bishop Shlemon Warduni, brought the body to the hospital in Mosul to ascertain the causes, still unknown, of the archbishop's death. The funeral will be held today in the nearby city of Karamles. Archbishop Rahho will be buried near Fr Ragheed, his priest and secretary killed by a terrorist brigade on June 3, 2007, while leaving the church after celebrating Mass.
The archbishop had been very sick. He had suffered a heart attack a few years ago, and since then he had needed to take medication every day. The difficult negotiations for his release carried forward over the past 14 days of his kidnapping had immediately raised concern because of the total absence of direct contact with the hostage. The conditions posed by the kidnappers - sources in Mosul tell AsiaNews - in addition to an outrageous ransom on the order of millions of dollars, had also included the provision of weapons and the liberation of Arab prisoners held in Kurdish prisons.
The news of Archbishop Rahho's death "profoundly wounds and saddens" the pope, says the director of the Vatican press office, Fr Federico Lombardi. Benedict XVI hopes that "this tragic event may renew once again and with greater force the efforts of all, and in particular of the international community, for the pacification of this greatly tormented country". Three times in recent days, the pope had launched an appeal for the liberation of the bishop. Numerous Muslim leaders had also spoken out for the prelate's release, both Sunnis and Shiites, in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, and also condemned the action as "contrary to Islam".
Hanoi, Feb. 4, 2008 (vaticans.org) - Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi has confirmed reports that the government of Vietnam has agreed to restore the offices of the apostolic nuncio in Hanoi after more than a month of public protests by lay Catholics.
In a February 1 statement, the archbishop welcomed the government's action and said that it was due in large part to the solidarity among Catholics in Vietnam, the support of Catholic news media outlets elsewhere, and the diplomatic intercession of the Vatican.
Since December 18, thousands of Catholics in Hanoi had been organizing daily prayer vigils outside the former nunciature in Hanoi, pleading for return of the building that had been confiscated by the Communist leadership in 1959. On February 1, CWN and other media outlets learned that the protests had brought a stunning victory, with the agreement from the government to turn the building over to Church leaders.
The government's surprising concession-- after years of ignoring pleas from Catholic leaders-- came at the end of a quick sequence of events. As the protests outside the nuncio's office drew larger crowds and more public attention, Vietnamese authorities threatened to take legal action against the archbishop and other clerics involved in the prayer vigils. Catholic activists defied a government order to vacate the premises. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote to Archbishop Ngo, urging him to avoid confrontations and promising to press the Vietnamese government for return of the building. Then, just hours after the letter from Cardinal Bertone was made public, the government agreed to return the building, in exchange for an agreement that the public demonstrations would come to an end.
During 40 days of protest, “We have lived a new Pentecost.” the archbishop wrote in his February 1 statement. He praised the Vietnamese Catholics who "have been united and devoted ourselves to the prayers…despite challenges and hardship." Archbishop Ngo noted that the solidarity among Catholics was "not limited within the Archdiocese of Hanoi but extended worldwide."
"Your earnest prayers have brought about a great result," the archbishop said. He reported that the agreement struck with government officials would be implemented in stages, beginning with the immediate closing of a restaurant that had been located in the building once occupied by the nuncio.
Card Telesphore Toppo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India - condemns attacks on Christians
India, Jan.11, 2008 (www.vaticans.org) – A “man-made tsunami” seems to have swept over the Christian community of the north-eastern Indian state of Orissa, said the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Card Telesphore Toppo, after he visited Bubhaneshwar, an area touched by a wave of anti-Christian violence led by the Hindu fundamentalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Over Christmas holidays, more precisely from 24 to 27 December, Hindu extremists attacked properties owned by Christians, Dalits and Tribals. After their rampage they left on their trail six people dead. They attacked, destroyed or set on fire 70 churches and other religious facilities. Some 600 homes suffered damages or were destroyed. Altogether about 5,000 people were negatively impacted.
Card Telesphore Toppo, who was a guest of Archbishop Raphael Cheenath from 2 to 4 January, was prevented from visiting victims in their homes by local authorities. He was never the less able to talk to some of them at the Bishop’s residence and was able to visit some of the affected areas where “people are still under shock, living in great fear and anxiety.”
The cardinal later met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and brought him up-to-date as to the situation in the state. In a letter he gave the prime minister, the prelate called the series of “unwarranted attacks” against Christians in Kandhamal district “truly tragic,” acts that were undoubtedly premeditated and carried out by sectarian forces.
Last Monday the cardinal issued another letter, this one to Catholic dioceses and institutions urging them to offer the affected areas material and economic assistance and help them rebuild.
Following charges by local human rights groups that the authorities’ response was inadequate and apathetic, the National Commission on Minorities sent a delegation to Kandhamal district.
The two-member team arrived in the area last Monday, ten days after the incidents, with the task of ascertaining the causes of the violence and suggesting steps in favour of the victims.
The delegation is also set to meet Orissa’s chief minister before handing in its report to the Commission.
Colombo, Srilanka, Jan.04, 2008 (vaticans.org) - The Archbishop of Colombo, Most. Rev. Oswald Gomis, condemns the assassination of MP Maheswaran.
Press Release: With the dawn of the New Year we have already witnessed two tragic incidents in Colombo itself. This clearly indicates that war and violence is not going to be the path to permanent peace.
It is very clear that we have to seek a political solution to the crisis we are facing. We must confess to a sense of profound disappointment at the long delay on the part of the powers of the South to offer a consensual solution to this long drawn conflict.
Whilst we witness daily killings, abductions and other forms of social crimes, the whole process of democracy is getting eroded. Therefore we strongly urge to the powers that be, to accelerate the process of finding a lasting solution immediately.
Whilst we extend our deepest sympathy and condolence to the bereaved family of Hon. T. Maheshwaran MP and to the families of those killed tragically in the Slave Isalnd.
We continue to pray for Peace in Sri Lanka .
Archbishop Oswald Gomis , Archbishop of Colombo