The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop who was kidnapped last month, has been found, church officials said Thursday.
Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop who was kidnapped in Iraq last month, has been found dead, Church officials in Rome and Baghdad said on Thursday.
It was not clear if he died as a result of his precarious health or if he was killed, Church officials in Rome said.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict was immediately informed and was "profoundly moved and saddened" by the news.
"Archbishop Rahho is dead. We found his lifeless body near Mosul. The kidnappers had buried him," Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad was quoted as telling SIR, the news agency of the Italian Bishops Conference.
The Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, confirmed the news. "Yes, he died," he told Reuters in Baghdad.
SIR quoted Warduni as saying the kidnappers had told Iraqi church officials on Wednesday that Rahho was very ill and, later on Wednesday, that he was dead.
But police in Baghdad said the body appeared to have been dead for at least a week and had started to decompose. They said there were no bullet wounds and were checking how he died.
The archbishop was wearing black trousers and a blue shirt.
Rahho was seized on Feb. 29 after gunmen attacked his car in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, killing his driver and two guards.
"This morning they called us to tell us that they had buried him. Some of our young people followed the indications that the
kidnappers had given to reach the site," the agency quoted Warduni as saying.
"They dug there and found the bishop lifeless. We still don't know if he died of causes linked to his precarious health or if he was killed. The kidnappers only told us that he was dead," he said.
Chaldeans belong to a branch of the Roman Catholic Church
that practices an ancient Eastern rite and form the biggest Christian community in Iraq.
"All of us had continued to pray and hope for his release, which the Pope had repeatedly urged," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement shortly after news of the death.
"Unfortunately the most absurd and unjustified violence continues to strike the Iraqi people and particularly the small Christian community," Lombardi said.
"Our hope is that this tragic event will underscore and reinforce everybody's commitment, and particularly that of the international community, to bring peace to this troubled country," he said.
Date created : 2008-03-13