The Vatican has given its permission for the opening of the sainthood cause of an Iraqi priest and three deacons who were murdered by armed gunmen in Mosul.
The Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave the “nihil obstat” (“no objection”), permitting a diocesan bishop to open a local inquiry into a candidate’s sanctity, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, May 14.
Fides confirmed that the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit would be handling the process because of the difficult conditions facing the church in Mosul.
Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, his cousin Deacon Basman Yousef Daud, and Deacons Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed June 3, 2007, in front of the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul. Father Ganni had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost.
The three deacons had been accompanying Father Ganni because of increasing threats against him by militants. According to AsiaNews, armed gunman shot the four men and then booby trapped their car with explosives to prevent others from safely recovering the bodies.
Father Ragheed Ganni was remembered last year, on the 10th anniversary of his murder:
Ten years ago, a group of Islamist militants in Mosul stopped the car of a Catholic priest and three sub-deacons after they had celebrated Mass for the Holy Trinity Sunday.
“We told you to close the church. Why didn’t you?”
Father Ragheed Ganni’s simply said, “we cannot close the house of God.”
Those were his last words.
The 35-year-old Iraqi priest, belonging to the eastern Chaldean rite, was shot to death with the three subdeacons: Basman Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Waheed Isho’a.
The wife of one of Ganni’s friends managed to escape, and became the only witness to the tragedy. She later said the priest motioned with his head for her to run away after he was pushed to the ground by his attackers.
On this past Sunday, Rome’s Pontifical Irish College celebrated Holy Trinity Mass in the memory of the slain clergymen.
The college has a personal connection to the event: Starting in 1996, Ganni lived there for seven years, while studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas – known as the Angelicum (the chapel of the Irish College in Rome now has a mosaic of Ganni by Father Ivan Rupnik, SJ, which was installed in 2010).
In 2004, he decided to return to his country to help it and its Christian population rebuild. Because of his connections in Rome, he was often the priest journalists and humanitarians spoke to when trying to find out what was happening in Iraq, and his death hit the international Catholic community in the city hard, including the Irish College.
The homilist at the Mass was Father Rebwar Audish Basa, a friend of Ganni, who is also from Iraq. Basa recently released a book on the life of his friend, A Catholic Priest in the Islamic State. The Story of Father Ragheed Ganni.
The book was published by Aid to the Church in Need, which funded Ganni’s studies in Rome.
“Closing that house of God would mean denying Jesus Christ and saying to believers not to practice their faith. That was unimaginable for Father Ragheed,” Basa said in his homily.
Read more. Pray for these men, their cause, and the suffering people of Iraq, that these martyred clergymen might intercede on their behalf.