Monday, August 21, 2006

Chaldean Catholic priest kidnapped in Baghdad

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Chaldean Catholic priest was kidnapped in Baghdad, Iraq, just after celebrating Mass Aug. 15 for the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, church leaders said.

Masked kidnappers forced Father Saad Sirop Hanna, 34, to stop his car, then they took him away, Vatican Radio reported Aug. 18. Father Hanna works at St. Jacob Parish in Dora, one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Father Philip Najim, the Rome-based representative of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad, confirmed the report.

"It is truly a very sad situation because he is a young priest who was continuing his studies. In fact, he was supposed to come here to Rome to study. He is a young priest who has dedicated his life to serving both the nation and all the Christian faithful he encounters," Father Najim said.

"Given the situation" of violence and confusion in Baghdad, especially in Dora where various militias have been fighting each other for months, "it is difficult to identify who took him," Father Najim said.

The priest said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after the kidnapping and was assured that "everyone is trying to resolve this situation as soon as possible and to secure the release of our priest."

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political organization, immediately condemned the kidnapping, Vatican Radio said.

"This demonstrates how united the Iraqi people are and that they are not trying to make divisions, because we are one people trying to live in peace," Father Najim said. "It does not surprise me that the Islamic party issued this statement.

"The Catholic Church in Iraq suffers daily, like the rest of the Iraqi people," he said. "Water and electricity are lacking. There are not enough hospitals but, more than anything, there is no security."

(Source: Catholic News Service)

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