By Marta Petrosillo
Ten years after the death of Father Ragheed Ganni, the Iraqi priest assassinated in Mosul on 3 June 2007, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched a book on his life, written by another Catholic priest and friend of his, Father Rebwar Audish Basa. The book launch in his honour took place in the offices of the Italian section of ACN in Rome (Piazza San Calisto 16) on Thursday 1st June at 11 a.m.
The book, entitled “Un sacerdote católico en el Estado islámico. La historia del Padre Ragheed Ganni” (A Catholic priest in the Islamic State. The story of Father Ragheed Ganni) includes his hitherto unpublished writings and testimonies. “The marvellous witness of faith of Father Ragheed deserves to be kept present in the memory of the Church”, states the preface to the book, written by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who knew Father Ragheed personally during his time as apostolic nuncio in Iraq. It was a terrifying experience, he said, to serve God “in an Iraq where the violence and terrorism was daily robbing tens of human beings of their lives”.
(With photo of Fr Ganni meeting with the founder of ACN Fr Werenfried van Straaten © Aid to the Church in Need)
As secretary to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, then Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, and as parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Father Ganni was repeatedly confronted with the cruelty of the Islamist attacks and was a witness to the systematic violence aimed at eliminating the Christians from Iraq. In 2004 he miraculously survived an assassination attempt aimed at the Archbishop of Mosul. There followed many attacks on his church and many threats against him personally. Until finally, on 3 June 2007 his killer confronted him: “I told you to close down the church, why have you not closed it?”, said the assassin. “I cannot shut the house of God”, said the priest, before being murdered in a hail of bullets.
Iraq has continued ever since to be a country of persecution, and the Islamist barbarism finally reached its peak with the invasion by ISIS of the towns and villages of the Niniveh plains in 2014. Nor did this persecution even spare the tomb of the martyred priest, in his native village of Karamles, which was destroyed and desecrated by the Islamic fundamentalists.
(Fr. Thabet Habeb Mansur stands at the destroyed and desecrated grave of Fr. Ragheed Ganni © Aid to the Church in Need)
An ACN delegation, which went out to visit the Christian villages on the Niniveh plains following their liberation from ISIS, found his tombstone, on which the summary of the life of Father Ragheed was written, smashed in pieces. “It seems as though the terrorists of ISIS didn’t like what was written there”, writes Father Rebwar Basa. “In this book we relate what they attempted to wipe out for ever.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
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