On Monday morning the Holy Father presided at a Mass for the soul of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldeans, who died in tragic circumstances following his kidnapping on February 29. The Pontiff described the archbishop as taking up his cross to follow Christ.
The Pope spoke of his closeness to the members of the "beloved Church which suffers, believes and prays in Iraq" and expressed the hope that "in the faith they may find the strength not to lose heart in the difficult situation they are experiencing."
The Holy Father also tied in today's Gospel reading about the anointing of Christ in Bethany with Archbishop Rahho's own "anointings" during his life, both sacramental and spiritual.
He first mentioned the sacramental anointings: Baptism, Confirmation and his Ordination as a priest and then bishop. "But I am also thinking", he continued, "of the many 'anointings' of filial affection and spiritual friendship ... which his faithful gave him and which accompanied him in the terrible hours of his kidnapping and his painful detention (where perhaps he was already wounded when he arrived), and even unto his agony, his death and that unworthy grave where his mortal remains were found.
"Those sacramental and spiritual anointings were a guarantee of resurrection, a guarantee of the true and full life that the Lord Jesus came to give us," he added.
Benedict XVI also remarked on the reading from the prophet Isaiah on the Servant of the Lord who will bring, proclaim and establish justice. "The insistence on this term," said the Pope, "cannot pass unobserved." The Servant "faced with an unjust condemnation bears witness to the truth, remaining faithful to the law of love."
The Holy Father continued: "On this path, Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord Jesus, thus he contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and to the whole world, bearing witness to the truth. He was a man of peace and dialogue ... with a particular fondness for the poor and the disabled. ... May his example sustain all Iraqis of good will, Christians and Muslims, to build peaceful coexistence founded on human fraternity and mutual respect.”
The Pope praised God for the holiness of the archbishop: "Over these days, in profound union with the Chaldean community in Iraq and abroad, we have wept for his death and the inhuman way in which he was compelled to end his earthly life. But today in this Eucharist ... we wish to give thanks to God for all the good He achieved in Archbishop Rahho.
Finally he prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Rahho. “We hope that, from heaven, he may intercede with the Lord to obtain for the faithful in that sorely-tried land the courage to continue to work for a better future.”