Vatican opens cause for sainthood of martyred priest and deacons


The Congregation for Saints’ Causes at 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 Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit will be handling the process of opening an inquiry into the candidates’ sanctity because of the current situation in Mosul.

35-year-old Iraqi Chaldean priest Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni, his cousin Deacon Basman Yousef Daud, and Deacons Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed almost 11 years ago.

On 3 June 2007, a group of armed Islamist militants in Mosul stopped the car of Fr Ganni and three sub-deacons who had been accompanying because of increasing threats against him by militants. “We told you to close the church. Why didn’t you?” demanded the gunmen. Fr Ganni simply said, “We cannot close the house of God.”

Those were his last words as the gunmen shot the four men in front of the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul where Father Ganni had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost. The gunmen then booby-trapped their car with explosives to prevent others from safely recovering the bodies.

The wife of one of Gianni’s friends who managed to escape was 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.

“Closing that house of God would mean denying Jesus Christ and saying to believers not to practice their faith. That was unimaginable for Fr Ganni,” said Iraqi priest  Fr Rebwar Audish Basa, who was a friend of Fr Ganni.

Fr Basa recently wrote a book: A Catholic Priest in the Islamic State. The Story of Father Ragheed Ganni, that was published by Aid to the Church in Need, which also funded Fr Ganni’s studies in Rome.

Rome’s Pontifical Irish College celebrated Holy Trinity Mass in memory of Fr Ganni on the 10th anniversary of his murder. The college has a personal connection with the murdered priest who lived there for seven years while studying at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. In 2004, Fr Ganni decided to return to his country to help it and its Christian population rebuild. The chapel of the Irish College in Rome has a mosaic of Fr Ganni by Fr Ivan Rupnik, which was installed in 2010.

ACN Malta