The Murder of Fr. Ragheed and Three Deacons
Fr Ragheed Ganni
Another day, another act of cowardliness against an Iraqi priest and three deacons. AsiaNews reports:
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – 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.
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.
Fr. Ragheed was born in Mosul in 1972. In 1993, He received his Civil Engineering degree from University of Mosul. He studied in Rome from 1996 to 2003 where he received a master degree in Theology.
My condolences to his and the three murdered deacons' families, friends and parishioners. May God gives them strength during these difficult times.
Read Fr. Ragheed Ganni's "Message of Easter" to know more about this remarkable priest.
Read Fr. Rageed's action to turn gunshots to fireworks during the first communion of 80 Iraqi Christian children last August. They may have killed his body; but his beautiful soul will always shine above his parishioners.
UPDATE Jun. 4, 2007 - UPDATE I
The arrival of Fr. Ragheed's coffin to Keremlish for his final journey. Fr. Ragheed and the three murdered deacons will be buried in Keremlish on Monday Jun. 4, 2007.
UPDATE Jun. 4, 2007 - UPDATE II
The Irish clergymen reaction to Fr. Ragheed's murder:
Rome, 4 June (AKI) - An Iraqi Catholic priest Ragheed Ganni, gunned down in Mosul after saying mass on Sunday, is remembered at the Irish College in Rome, where he trained for the priesthood.”as an exceptionally outgoing person, the sort of person that if you meet once you remember.”. “Even when he had just arrived and couldn't speak English or Italian he still managed to communicate with people here at the college” the rector Liam Bergin told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone interview. Rasheed Ganni, 31, was shot dead along with three deacons in their car, shortly after he had said mass on Sunday.
Phone calls and emails of condolence have been flooding in from those who knew the 35 year old priest. “This tragic violence has created ripples far afield. Even the Irish president who was in Rome at Sunday's canonisation had met Ragheed in Ireland and remembered him” Bergin told AKI.
During his seminary studies Ganni couldn't return to Iraq during the holidays so he often spent that time in Ireland. For that connection but also for his extrovert nature he was nicknamed “Paddy the Iraqi”. He had recently been given permission by his bishop to come to Rome to study for a doctorate in ecumenism.
It's been more than 24-hours and not ONE WORD from the American mainstream media.
UPDATE Jun. 4, 2007 - UPDATE III
AsiaNews published a beautiful tribute to Fr. Ragheed:
He died yesterday, massacred by blind violence. Killed on his way home from Church, where his people, despite their decreasing numbers, bowed by fear and desperation, continued to come: “the young people – Ragheed told us just days ago – organized surveillance after the recent attacks against the parish, the kidnappings, the threats to religious; priests celebrate mass amidst the bombed out ruins; mothers worry as they see their children challenge danger to attend catechism with enthusiasm; the elderly come to entrust their fleeing families to God’s protection, they alone remain in their country where they have their roots and built their homes, refusing to flee. Exile for them is unimaginable”. Ragheed was one of them, a strong father figure who wanted to protect his children: “It is our duty not to give in to despair: God will listen to our prayers for peace in Iraq”:
Dearest Ragheed, with a heart which cries in pain, you leave us your hope and your certainty. By taking you they aimed to wipe out the hope of Iraq’s Christians. Instead your martyrdom nourishes and gives new life to your community, to the Iraqi Church and the Church throughout the world. Thank you, grazie Ragheed.
I'm trying to make sense of his death. But, I'm lost in this darkness.
UPDATE Jun. 4, 2007 - UPDATE IV
Ankawa.com published pictures from the funeral of Fr. Ragheed and deacons Basman, Ghazwan and Waheed. They're heartbreaking.
Thousands of people attended the funeral of Fr. Ragheed and the three deacons.
Cries and tears during the funeral of Fr. Ragheed.
Two nuns and a layman carry the pictures of the three deacons who were murdered with Fr. Ragheed.
R.I.P Fr. Ragheed,
R.I.P. deacon Basman,
R.I.P. deacon Ghazwan,
R.I.P. deacon Waheed.
UPDATE Jun. 6, 2007 - UPDATE V
Source: Middle East Online
Fr. Ragheed took this picture during his visit to Rome last November. The picture was taken at the Terrorism Victims Square in Rome. Fr. Ragheed told his friend who took the picture [Source: Middle East Online]:
Take my picture please. We are the victims of terrorism. I appeal to civil and church authorties to intervene and act seriously to save Christians left in Iraq, who are daily victims of terrorism.
UPDATE Jun. 8, 2007 - UPDATE VI
Zenit Catholic News Agency translated a letter from a Muslim friend of Fr. Ragheed. I thought to share with you too:
Source: Ankawa Online
Fr. Ragheed Ganni's body during his funeral in Keremlish, Iraq.
In the name of the compassionate and merciful God,
Ragheed, my brother,
I ask your forgiveness for not being with you when those criminals opened fire against you and your brothers. The bullets that have gone through your pure and innocent body have also gone through my heart and soul.
You were one of the first people I met when I arrived to Rome. We met in the halls of the Angelicum and we would drink our cappuccino in the university's cafeteria. You impressed me with your innocence, joy, your pure and tender smile that never left you.
I always picture you smiling, joyful and full of zest for life. Ragheed is to me innocence personified; a wise innocence that carries in its heart the sorrows of his unhappy people. I remember the time, in the university's dining room, when Iraq was under embargo and you told me that the price of a single cappuccino would have satisfied the needs of an Iraqi family for a whole day.
You told me this as if you were feeling guilty for being far away from your persecuted people and unable to share in their sufferings …
In fact, you returned to Iraq, not only to share the suffering and destiny of your people but also to join your blood to the blood of thousands of Iraqis killed each day. I will never forget the day of your ordination [Oct. 13, 2001] in the [Pontifical] Urbanian University … with tears in your eyes, you told me: "Today, I have died to self" … a hard thing to say.
I didn't understand it right away, or maybe I didn't take it as seriously as I should have. … But today, through your martyrdom, I have understood that phrase. … You have died in your soul and body to be raised up in your beloved, in your teacher, and so that Christ would be raised up in you, despite the sufferings, sorrows, despite the chaos and madness.
In the name of what god of death have they killed you? In the name of which paganism have they crucified you? Did they truly know what they were doing?
O God, we don't ask you for revenge or retaliation. We ask you for victory, a victory of justice over falsehood, life over death, innocence over treachery, blood over the sword. … Your blood will not have been shed in vain, dear Ragheed, because with it you have blessed the soil of your country. And from heaven, your tender smile will continue to light the darkness of our nights and announce to us a better tomorrow.
I ask your forgiveness, brother, for when the living get together they think they have all the time in the world to talk, visit, and share feelings and thoughts. You had invited me to Iraq … I dreamed of that visit, of visiting your house, your parents, your office. … It never occurred to me that it would be your tomb that one day I would visit or that it would be verses from my Quran that I would recite for the repose of your soul …
One day, before your first trip to Iraq after a prolonged absence, I went with you to buy souvenirs and presents for your family. You spoke with me of your future work: "I would like to preside over the people on the base of charity before justice" -- you said.
It was difficult for me to imagine you a "canonical judge" … And today your blood and your martyrdom have spoken for you, a verdict of fidelity and patience, of hope against all suffering, of survival, in spite of death, in spite of everything.
Brother, your blood hasn't been shed in vain, and your church's altar wasn't a masquerade. … You assumed your role with deep seriousness until the end, with a smile that would never be extinguished … ever.
Your loving brother,
Rome, June 4, 2007
Professor of Islamic Studies in the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture,
Pontifical Gregorian University