BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has appealed to Iraqi authorities to defend minority Christians, after police confirmed that the Christian owner of a car repair shop was killed, execution-style, in Mosul.
The body of the 36-year-old man, shot in the head, was found last week Thursday, January 15, raising concern about attacks against Christians in the northern Iraqi city. The slaying of the man, whose name was not immediately identified, came after a series of violent incidents, that forced thousands of Christians fleeing from their homes in Mosul since the fall.
Pope Benedict XVI said he was concerned about attacks against Christians. “The Christians who live in Iraq are full citizens with the same rights and obligations as everyone, without the distinction of religion,” he said in remarks monitored by BosNewsLife Sunday, January 25.
He spoke at a meeting of bishops from Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church in Vatican City, who presenting him with the stole that belonged to priest Ragheed Ganni, who was murdered together with three deacons in the city of Mosul in March, last year, after he emerged from saying mass.
The pope also received the the chasuble of Archbishop Paolus Faraj Rahoo, also of Mosul, who was found dead in abandoned land in March, 2008, two weeks after he was abducted from his diocese.
“I salute their courage” the pope said in remarks aired by Vatican Radio. “Their perseverance in the face of threats and trials. The witness they give is a sign of their strength and faith and of their hope,” he added.
However he also urged Iraqi bishops to show greater greater unity, at a time of crisis in the country. There were at least some 750,000 Christians still living in the country when the U.S-led invasion began in 2003, however many have since fled to neighboring countries, including Jordan and Syria, churches and advocacy groups have confirmed.