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Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho

Paulos was born into a deeply rooted Chaldean Catholic family on November 20th, 1942 in Mosul Iraq, the youngest of eight children. He would spend his early years there in Mosul before attending Saint Peter's Theological Institute in Baghdad and was ordained a Priest on June 10th, 1965 in the Chaldean Church. After briefly working in Baghdad, he completed religious studies with a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

While studying for his doctorate there in 1977, the then archbishop asked him to return to Mosul. Upon his return, he was appointed to serve a new residential area in Mosul named Majmoaa Thakaifya where he opened a home for orphans and those with disabilities. On January 12th, 2001 the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church formally elected him as the archbishop of the Archeparchy of Mosul (the diocese of Mosul was elevated to Archeparchy of Mosul in 1967 by Pope Paul VI. It contains 12 parishes and the followers areethnic Chaldeans speaking Aramaic). His ordination was performed by Mar Rahael I Bidawid, the Patriarch of Babylon.

He was known by his brother bishops as a warm, compassionate and humble man, famous for his jokes. In August 2004, he was marched out of his official residence and forced to watch as extremists set the building on fire. Due to his work in interfaith relations, a local Imam offered him accommodations at a local Mosque complex while the building was repaired. In a trip to Rome in 2007, he would confided to the patriarch of Babylon Emmanuel III Delly that he had been threatened in Mosul on at least one occasion. He would also tell Asia News in an interview:

"We, Christians of Mesopotamia, are used to religious persecution and pressures by those in power. After Constantine, persecution ended only for western Christians, whereas in the east threats continued. Even today we continue to be a church of martyrs."

On February 29th, 2008, as the Archbishop and his two guards and driver were driving through the al-Nour neighborhood, gunmen ambushed the car, spraying bullets wildly into the vehicle. Both guards and the driver were killed, and the Archbishop was pulled out of the car and kidnapped. Some reports state that he may have also been shot in the leg during the kidnapping, but the official report did not mention it. He was able to use his cell phone while in the truck of the kidnapper's car, and contacted the church telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release. Officials of the church (in Mosul known as Safina, or the Ship) stated:

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,”

The kidnappers, using the Archbishop's phone, called and demanded the release of Arab prisoners, 3 Million US dollars, and Iraqi Christians form a militia to fight the US forces. On March 13, 2008, church officials received a phone call telling them where to find his body, and it was located in a shallow grave near Mosul.

The resulting investigation is extremely controversial and official reports were contradictory. The Mosul morgue official stated that he likely died of natural causes (due to high blood pressure and diabetes), the police stated that he had been dead a week and had no bullet wounds, while his family stated that when they located the grave it had multiple gunshot wounds. Some within the Chaldean community believe it to be the work of Al-Qaeda while others believe it to be a Kurdish assassination.

Pope Benedict XVI would say at Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter's Square:

"The murder was an act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human being.

Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!"

Patriarch Emmanuel II Delly wept during the funeral service in Karamles and urged Christians not to seek revenge for their archbishop's death. Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk told the Independent via phone:

"above all, a pastor. Despite all the risks to his life, he stayed in the city. He gave up his life for his people and for his church. He was a man of courage but also of good humor. He loved telling jokes and was very sociable."

On May 19th, 2008 the Iraqi Central Criminal Court sentenced Ahmed Ali Ahmed, an Al-Qaeda cell leader in Iraq and reported killer of the Archbishop to death. The Chaldean Catholic church and Roman Catholic church asked the court not to carry out the death sentence.

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