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Two First Names

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed

Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud

Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud was Father Ganni's cousin

Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni
January 20, 1972 - June 3, 2007
Requiescat in pace

“Without Sunday, without the Eucharist, the Christians in Iraq cannot survive.” - Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

“Christ challenged evil with His infinite love.  He keeps us united, and through the Eucharist, He gifts us life which the terrorists are trying to take away.” - Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

At their ad limina* visit to Pope Benedict XVI in January of 2009, the Chaldean bishops gave him the stole belonging to Father Ragheed Ganni which the pope received "with emotion."

Eternal Father we pray that your

 beloved servant, Father Ganni, who

risked all

 so that he could celebrate the

Holy Sacrifice for his people, and

 who gave

 the ultimate sacrifice of his life in

 doing so, be an example to all.

 May

 he intercede for us and those

 persecuted Christians at this time

 of true

Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho's wife, Bayan Adam Bella, in exile in Syria, the only witness to the martyrdom, spoke out on the first anniversary of Father Ragheed and his subdeacons' deaths.  Father Ragheed and his cousin, Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud, were in the lead car and Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho, his wife, and Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed were following in another car: 

"At a certain point, the car was stopped by armed men. Father Ragheed could have fled, but he did not want to because he knew they were looking for him.  They forced us to get out of the car and led me away.  Then one of the killers screamed at Father Ragheed, 'I told you to close the church.  Why didn't you do it?  Why are you still here?'  And he simply responded, 'How can I close the house of God?'  They immediately pushed him to the ground, and Father Ragheed had only enough time to gesture to me with his head that I should run away.  Then they opened fire and killed all four of them. Why did they make me a widow?  Why did they tear the word 'papa' from the mouths of my children?  What did we do wrong? What did my husband do?" 

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was ordained in the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church in 2001.

Church of the Holy Spirit Mosul Iraq
Mass of Christian Burial
Karamles, Iraq, Father Ganni's hometown

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Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, 35, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP

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Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP

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Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP

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Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP

Chaldean Father Ragheed Ganni, 35, the pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit in the Nur district of Mosul, Iraq, and Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud, Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed, and Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho were forced out of their car, shot, and killed outside the Church of the Holy Spirit after celebrating Mass on Sunday, June 3, 2007.  Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed's wife was also pulled out of the car, but she was separated from the victims and witnessed the martyrdoms.  The gunmen then placed bombs in the car, and because of safety fears, the bodies lay unrecovered until the police bomb squad arrived at 10:00 P. M.

Church of the Holy Spirit Mosul Iraq

Father Ganni's life had been previously threatened, and the Church of the Holy Spirit had been attacked several times and bombed on May 27, 2007. "We are on the verge of collapse," said Father Ganni a week before he died.

Father Ganni's funeral

Chaldean Funeral Mass for Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni in Karamles, Iraq, Father Ganni's hometown.  Despite the danger, 2,000 faithful attended the Funeral Masses of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daod, Subdeacon Gassan Bidawed, and Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho.  The celebrant was the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was Archbishop Rahho's secretary.

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was martyred on March 12, 2008.**

Vatican telegram to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho

The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid, and Wadid Hanna, and he asks you kindly to convey to their families his heartfelt condolences.

He willingly joins the Christian community in Mosul in commending their souls to the infinite mercy of God, our loving Father, and in giving thanks for their selfless witness to the Gospel.

At the same time he prays that their costly sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence, to conquer evil with good, and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice, and peace in Iraq.

To the families and to all who mourn their dead in faith and in the hope which draws its certainty from the resurrection, His Holiness cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord.

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni celebrating Mass

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni (left) celebrates Mass in Mosul, Iraq

Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly

With hearts full of bitterness the Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans, His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel III Delly, and all the Chaldean bishops raise a disdainful protest and denounce the martyrdom.

This is a shameful crime that any person of conscience rejects. Those who committed it did a horrendous thing against God and humanity, against their brothers who were faithful and peaceful citizens besides being men of religion who always offered their prayers and their supplications up to Almighty God that He would bring peace, security, and stability to all of Iraq.

The bishops ask everyone for unity and solidarity in these difficult moments; and on this sad occasion, they repeat what they have already declared before about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, their forced emigration, and their being pushed to deny their faith. They ask the Iraqi leaders and the international organizations to intervene and take the necessary steps to put an end to these criminal acts.

Email from Father Ragheed Ganni to Father Robert Christian, his former theology professor at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome:

Father Christian:  "On Saturday, June 2, I received an email from Mosul. In part it read:"

The situation here is worse than hell, and my church has been attacked a few more times since we last met. Last week two guards in it were wounded after an attack. We shall meet in the near future and have a chat about all these events. God bless, Ragheed.

Father Christian shared another email from Father Ganni from October, 2006:

The situation, as you can follow in the news, is dreadful. Christians are suffering twice, first because of the situation, second because of their religion.

The Pope's speech lit a fire in the city. A Syrian Orthodox priest was beheaded; my parish church was attacked five times. I was threatened even before that priest was kidnapped, but I was very careful about moving around.  I postponed my vacation twice because I couldn't leave the city under such conditions.

I was planning to travel to Europe on Sept. 18, but I moved it to Oct. 4. Then I had to change the date to Nov. 1.

Ramadan was a disaster for us in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian families fled outside the city including my family and uncles. About 30 people left all their properties and fled, having been threatened.

It is not easy but the grace of the Lord gives support and strength. We face death every day here.

Father Christian adds his own words

We are used to teaching future leaders of the Church. When we hear about one of our former students becoming a bishop, we rejoice.  But having taught a martyr is something else entirely.  Sometimes we professors learn from our students. 

Emotions are strong: Sadness, pain, anger and the feeling of helplessness.

However, there is the awareness that we are before a person who was prepared to pay the supreme price; a person who wanted to live and die heroically; a person ready to shed his blood for the life of the faithful. This awareness humbles us.

A Muslim Mourns Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

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,

Adnam Mokrani
Rome, June 4, 2007
Professor of Islamic Studies in the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture,
Pontifical Gregorian University

Another Muslim friend referred to Father Ganni as innocence personified and recalled Father Ganni's words on the day of his ordination, "Today, I have died to self."

Egyptian Coptic Bishop Boutros Fahim Awad Hanna
responds to:
"A Muslim Mourns Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni"
(The Coptics are in communion with Rome)

My Dear Brother, Adnam,
Peace be with you,

Thank you for your humanity, your faith, your fidelity and your solicitude. Your letter to Father Ragheed, assassinated in Iraq, is a message of peace that resounds in an absurd world of mad and senseless wars.

Thank you for your sensitivity toward all and in the face of everything.  I have known you, friend, brother, Muslim believer, exceptional for your humanity and for your faith.

Thank you for your solidarity. I hope to always encounter people like you who can add zest and value to life regardless of which religion one professes. I hope that all together we would be able to work for our Arab world and for all our brethren that suffer for so many different reasons, including, among others, religious ones.

Hoping to see you soon, I thank you and I embrace you with fraternal affection in the one God that inspires all in love for life and peace.

Bishop Boutros Fahim Awad Hanna

Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria for the Copts
(Formerly Father Kamai Fahim)

Iraqi Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was fluent in Arabic, Italian, French, and English and earned a degree in Civil Engineering from Mosul University in 1993

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was a frequent visitor to Ireland because it was too dangerous for him to return home to Iraq during the holidays when he was studying in Rome.  Father Ganni went to Ireland and worked at the Lough Derg Shrine in Donegal and was nicknamed by the Irish, Paddy the Iraqi:

Lough Derg Shrine in Donegal

We offer our sincere sympathy to his parents, Aziz and Georgina; his sisters Ghada, Inas, and Raghad; his brothers, Firas and Ghadir; as well as the bishop, priests, and people of the Diocese of Mosul.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Monsignor Richard Mohan
Prior

Irish President Mary McAleese mourns the death of
Father Ragheed Ganni and three deacons

I was in Rome last weekend when the tragic news came through that Father Ragheed Ganni, someone I first met in Lough Derg some years ago, and a former student of the Irish College, had been killed with three of the deacons who worked with him, one of those deacons his cousin.

Father Ragheed's father and mother and all his family, must suffer great pain at this time. Their loss is all the more terrible for the suddenness and evil manner of his death.  May Father Ragheed's dear parents be sustained by their deep faith.

The manner of Father Ragheed's death will be mourned in particular by the people of Iraq; and as his funeral mass in northern Iraq demonstrated, by the people of the whole region.  Father Ragheed returned to live and minister in the ancient city of Mosul in the parish of the Holy Spirit in full consciousness of the risks.

There had been a bomb attack on the parish church as recently as Pentecost Sunday.  Let us recognize Father Ragheed's sacrifice for what it was.  Equally, we should reflect in truth on the sequence of events that has brought so many communities in Iraq to the edge of survival. As we follow the daily tragedies of Iraq, we should pray, as Pope Benedict XVI said, that this "costly sacrifice will inspire...a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence."

In the middle of the forced exodus to Connaught in the 1650s, a Gaelic poet, Fear Dorcha O'Mealláin, wrote about the possibility of faith even under dire circumstances of persecution and social dislocation in An Duanaire. He spoke too of God's oneness:

People of my heart stand steady,
Don't make play of your distress.
Moses got what he requested,
Religious freedom even from Pharaoh.

Identical Israel's God and ours,
One God there was and still remains.
Here or Westward God is one,
One God ever and shall be.

Father Ragheed Ganni's death challenges us to work for reconciliation between faiths and to create a world where each human life is revered. The process of our own island's reconciliation that began so promisingly in Belfast a few short weeks ago may hold out hope for Father Ganni's beloved but troubled homeland.

These are days of sorrow for a caring family, for a lacerated country, and for so many others.  But Father Ragheed lived his life by a commandment to love. In our sorrow we remember on this Feast of Corpus Christi his sacrifice, his willing sacrifice in service of his faith.

I thank God today for the blessing that has been given us in Father Ragheed Ganni.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dílis/May his faithful soul be on God's right side.

Mary McAleese
President of Ireland

Father Ephram Gallyana, 31, was ordained a Chaldean priest in the Church of Mar Addai in Karamles, Iraq, on July 7, 2007, and placed a cross of yellow roses on Father Ragheed Ganni's tomb with the inscription "From your brother, Ephram Gallyana."  Father Gallyana pledged to "continue the work of Father Ragheed."  Although Father Gallyana will serve in the Diocese of Mosul, his ordination was held in Karamles, Father Ragheed's hometown, for security reasons.

*ad limina visit - bishops visit the pope every five years to update the pope on their dioceses.

**Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako sent a first anniversary commemoration of Archbishop Paolo Faraj Rahho to AsiaNews:

Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Bishop Paolo Faraj Rahho and his companions.  A year ago we were struck and scandalised by this absurd event! And at the same time we celebrate the memorial of a long list of Christian martyrs: 710 in Iraq, including the 21 from Kirkuk, among them the altar server Fadi, the two sisters Margaret and Fadhila, and Colonel and Deacon W. Boraji.

This celebration is not in memory of the past but a concrete presence that goes beyond the boundaries of time.  We are before a great mystery, the mystery of life in all of its fullness.  In fact martyrdom explains all of life’s intensity and its glory.  Life that we call “eternal” not in the way which philosophers call it so, but according to the concrete testimony of Jesus Christ.  In Him we find reason to hope, persevere, adore and above all the strength to put up with it all.

There are many challenges and difficulties, but we must not give in to pessimism and fear….we Christians must continue to be the difficult number in the equation.  The death of these heroes must help us to overcome our fears and doubts.  Their martyrdom is a sign of the transfiguration and resurrection that has become part of our Church and our nation “an oasis of blessings”.

We cannot remain in silence; we must remind the Iraq community and the international community of the importance of the Christian presence in Iraq, and their witness of loyalty, faith and honesty. Our desire is to continue this existence of love in respect of human rights.  We want to live in peace and brotherhood with others.

The blood of so many Iraqi martyrs invites us all to return to a dignified way of living in society and to sincerely cooperate for national reconciliation; it also invites us to create a democratic society that respects the freedom of all of its citizens and their dignity.

This commemoration of the martyrs holds for us great meaning of love, hope, consolation and joy. Good Friday will surely be followed by Easter Sunday.

Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk

Martyred Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho received the Vatican's 2009 Path to Peace award for promoting tolerance and religious freedom.

 

 

 

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