Thousands of mourners gathered in the Christian village of Kremlis, Iraq today to bury Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was discovered yesterday.
The funeral procession included a throng of thousands who cried and wailed as the archbishop’s coffin was carried on the shoulders of about ten men. Security was very tight with a large number of soldiers as well as armored vehicles patrolling the village center.
Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who is the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, wept as he led the funeral Mass for the archbishop and called on Christians not to seek revenge for their shepherd’s death.
According to Agence France-Presse Cardinal Delly told the mourners that, "The people of the church should be self-restrained and patient." The funeral was held at Mar Aada church in Kremlis, about 22 miles east of Mosul.
Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped on February 29 by militants who killed the three aides accompanying him in his car. The extremists demanded exorbitant sums of money for releasing the archbishop as well as an exchange of prisoners held by the United States military.
On Thursday, after asking to speak to Archbishop Rahho, church authorities were told that he was dead and given detailed instructions where they could find his body.
An autopsy revealed that the prelate had been dead for five days before his body was recovered. It has not yet been announced whether Rahho died from natural causes or was killed -- there were no bullet wounds to his body, according to AFP.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad and the American military are blaming Al-Qaeda for the archbishop's death.