Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud was Father
Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho
Father Ragheed Aziz
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
so that he could celebrate the
Holy Sacrifice for his people, and
the ultimate sacrifice of his life
doing so, be an example to all.
he intercede for us and those
persecuted Christians at this time
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
Aziz Ganni was ordained in the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic
Church in 2001.
Mass of Christian Burial
Karamles, Iraq, Father Ganni's hometown
Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni,
35, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP
Subdeacon Gassan Isam Bidawed,
Church of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP
Subdeacon Basman Yousef Daud, Church
of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP
Subdeacon Wahid Hanna Isho, Church
of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, Iraq, RIP
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Aziz Ganni (left) celebrates Mass in Mosul, Iraq
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Rome, June 4, 2007
Professor of Islamic Studies in the Institute for the Study of Religion
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
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)
Aziz Ganni was fluent in Arabic, Italian, French, and English
and earned a degree in Civil Engineering from Mosul University in 1993
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
Lough Derg Shrine in
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
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
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
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dílis/May his faithful soul be on
God's right side.
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.
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
Martyred Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Faraj
Raho received the Vatican's 2009 Path to Peace award for promoting
tolerance and religious freedom.