A Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped in Iraq has been found dead, the news agency of Italian bishops' conference has reported.
The SIR news agency says Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found dead near the Iraqi city of Mosul, where he had been abducted.
"Monsignor Rahho is dead. We have found him lifeless near Mosul," the agency quoted the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, as saying. "The kidnappers had buried him."
Rahho was kidnapped on Feb. 29 soon after he left Mass in Mosul. Three people who had been with him were killed by the kidnappers. Pope Benedict XVI immediately called for his release and said the abduction was an "abominable" act.
Church leaders in Britain, including Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, continued to make private and public appeals for his release.
The kidnapping of the Archbishop of Mosul was likely a criminal rather than a political act, the vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, told the Religious Intelligence website, run in association with the Church of England Newspaper.
“Most of the kidnappings of Christians are economic rather than political,” Canon White said in an e-mail from Baghdad a week ago. The kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho is “distressing,” but has only made headlines in the West because he is an Archbishop, he added.
“The fact that he is a Chaldean Archbishop also makes things worse as it is known that they are linked to the Roman Catholic Church so it is perceived that they should have plenty of money,” said Canon White.
Gunmen seized the Chaldean Archbishop following a service at the Church of the Holy Spirit the northern Iraqi city killing his driver and two guards.
The Chaldean church is an Eastern-rite denomination that recognizes the authority of the pope.