Rome: In the Basilica of San Bartolomeo, the delivery of the stole of Ragheed Aziz Ganni, Chaldean priest killed in Mosul in Iraq
June 2, 2011
From yesterday, the basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Island, the memorial of the Christian martyrs of our time assigned years ago by Pope John Paul II to the custody of the Community of Sant'Egidio, has been enriched by another precious relic, the priestly stole of the Chaldean Catholic priest Ragheed Aziz Ganni, from Mosul, Iraq, killed in his home town along with three sub-deacons of the same Church, the largest Christian community in the Arab country, June 3, 2007.
Four years ago, it was the evening of Sunday after Pentecost, Father Ragheed had just finished celebrating mass in his parish dedicated to the Holy Spirit, in the center of Mosul. Along with three companions he was attacked and killed in cold blood. The killers then surrounded the bodies with cars loaded with explosive charges so that no one would dare to approach.
For years, the parish of Father Ragheed was the target of terrorists. A few days before he died, he said: "The 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 to God their families fleeing from Iraq, the country that they do not want to leave instead, firmly rooted in houses built by the labour of years. "
He was a courageous priest, Father Ragheed. 35 years, had made his theological studies in Rome, at the Angelicum. During his stay in Rome he met the Community of Sant'Egidio, with which he went every week to deliver meals to the homeless in the area of Colle Oppio. Here he met many of his countrymen, the poor, who fled their country for war and discrimination. He returned to Iraq in 2003, in his Mosul, had immediately been busy for the reconstruction of a "free society" in a country battered. He spoke with hope; organized theology courses for lay people, working with young people, he consoled disadvantaged families. He had not lost contact with Rome, where he had left a child with serious eye problems so that he could be properly cared for. The numerous attacks to friends and relatives and the fleeing of so many Christians had not discouraged him.
The first months of 2007 were horrific: repeated attacks, kidnappings of priests, the tax imposed on Christians to stay in the city, communications difficult. And two bombs dropped in a few weeks on his parish of the Holy Spirit. In those conditions father Ragheed felt the strength of the Eucharist, on which he relied his community: "Without Sunday, without the Eucharist the Christians in Iraq can not survive". "The terrorists try to steel our life - he said in May 2005 in Bari, on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress - but the Eucharist gives it back. (...) Sometimes I myself feel frail and full of fear. When, holding the Eucharist, I say: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, I feel His strength in me: I hold in my hand the host, but in reality it is He who keeps me and all of us, defying the terrorists and keeping us united in His love forever. "
Elderly parents were yesterday at St. Bartholomew, who brought in a procession, during the moving ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Mosul, Mgr. Nona and enriched by the presence of many friends of Sant'Egidio, the stole of their son, exposed to the veneration of the faithful in the chapel of the martyrs of Asia, Oceania and the Middle East. The bishop is the successor of Mgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, of whom father Ragheed was secretary. Seven months later, he joined his blood with that of his young cooperator, in giving of life.