Shot outside his church by Islamists, his last words were, "How can I close the house of God?"
The Vatican has given the go-ahead for the opening of the canonization process of a young Iraqi priest and three deacons who were shot by Islamists in 2007.
Father Ragheed Ganni and Deacons Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Isam Bidawid were killed outside the Holy Spirit church right after Father Ganni had celebrated Mass for Trinity Sunday. It was June 3, 2007.
The Islamists asked Father Ganni why he had not closed the church. His response, his last words, were “How can I close God’s house?”
According to Zenit news agency, the day before his death, Father Ganni had sent an email to one of his former professors, describing the problems in Iraq.
“The situation here is worse than hell, and my church has been attacked a few more times since we last met. Last week, two guards in it were wounded after an attack,” he wrote to Father Robert Christian, a theology professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome.
Father Christian shared the note when he spoke at Father Ganni’s requiem Mass.
“Ragheed could have fled,” Father Christian said. “As far as I know, he came to Italy three times after he returned to Mosul upon finishing his licentiate in ecumenism at the Angelicum.
“But Ragheed had a strong sense of his priestly duty to be an icon of the Good Shepherd for his people.”
Posthumously, a Muslim friend of Father Ganni’s, a professor of Islamic studies at the Angelicum, wrote him a moving letter, also translated by Zenit.
It says, in part:
Ragheed, my brother, I ask your forgiveness for not being with you when those criminals opened fire against you and your brothers. The bullets that have gone through your pure and innocent body have also gone through my heart and soul. …
In the name of what god of death have they killed you? In the name of which paganism have they crucified you? Did they truly know what they were doing?
O God, we don’t ask you for revenge or retaliation. We ask you for victory, a victory of justice over falsehood, life over death, innocence over treachery, blood over the sword. …