- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

The body of kidnapped Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was discovered on the outskirts of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, yesterday, a day after Vatican aides told The Washington Times that Pope Benedict XVI would use his upcoming Washington visit to seek help in winning the cleric’s release.

Benedict yesterday denounced the slaying as “an act of inhuman violence that offends human dignity.”

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl also deplored the death of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop, whose half-buried body was found 13 days after he was kidnapped at gunpoint.

“It is certainly a sad and tragic event when a person whose life is dedicated to the service of God and people and faith is taken so needlessly,” Archbishop Wuerl told editors and reporters at The Times.

Christians, who constitute roughly 3 percent of Iraq’s population of 26 million, have been under assault since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

Many Christian women in Baghdad now hide their religion under head scarves so they will not be killed on the street.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern rite faction aligned with the Roman Catholic Church and recognizes the authority of the pope.

The Washington archbishop said he is not aware of any church moves to evacuate or provide safe haven to the Christians remaining in Iraq.

“It is difficult to determine what is the best way to help without interfering and causing more tensions,” Archbishop Wuerl said. “We pray.”

“That is a way of offering support,” he said.

Iraqi police said Archbishop Rahho, 65, appeared to have been dead a week and that his body showed no bullet wounds. He was dressed in black trousers and a blue shirt, Reuters news agency reported from Mosul.

The drama has reinforced the pontiff’s determination to seek support from President Bush when he meets with him at the White House next month to quell the growing exodus of Christians from Iraq, Vatican sources said.

Benedict, in a telegram of condolence to the Chaldean church in Baghdad, said he will say prayers in honor of Archbishop Rahho during Easter Way of the Cross ceremonies.

“I ask the Lord for his mercy that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq,” the pope said.

John Phillips reported from Rome.

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