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Benedict to seek U.S. help for Iraqi Christians

ICC Note

“The pope is known to be worried by the decline in the number of Christians in the region,”

By John Phillips

March 13th, 2008 Iraq (ankawa.com) – Pope Benedict XVI, during his upcoming visit to Washington , plans to seek President Bush’s help in stopping the flight of Christians from Iraq , Vatican sources said yesterday. The German-born pontiff will cite the kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho in northern Iraq nearly two weeks ago to illustrate his concern.

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“We are still in trepidation for the fate of His Excellency Monsignor Rahho, and of so many Iraqis who continue to undergo blind and absurd violence, certainly contrary to the will of God,” Benedict said during his weekly Angelus address Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

The ailing Chaldean prelate was abducted by gunmen Feb. 29as he left the Holy Spirit Church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul after celebrating a Way of the Cross service for Lent.

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The Chaldeans are an Eastern rite church that is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church and recognizes the authority of the pope.

“The pope is known to be worried by the decline in the number of Christians in the region,” said Gerard O’Connell, a correspondent for the British Catholic newspaper, the Tablet, who has covered the Vatican for three decades.

“The case of the archbishop is sure to make Benedict more determined than ever to sensitize the White House and U.S. officials to the exodus,” he added.

Another Iraqi prelate, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk , said the kidnappers, thought to be Wahhabites, had set “difficult conditions” for the release of his colleague and continue to refuse mediators direct contact with the hostage.

The Wahhabi sect of Islam, the official religion of Saudi Arabia , is a theological foundation of al Qaeda’s terrorist ideology.

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The papal nuncio in Iraq , Archbishop Francis Chullikat, said the abducted prelate “certainly cannot stand the kidnapping for long.”

Archbishop Rahho “is sick; last year, he underwent delicate surgery and he needs medical attention,” the nuncio told the semiofficial newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. “We are worried that he may have been wounded during the bloody abduction.”

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