إعداد سانا روفو ولينا كليانا
أقام المعهد الكهنوتي الإيرلندي الحبري في روما قداساً إلهياً بمناسبة الذكرى العاشرة لإستشهاد الأب رغيد عزيز كني ورفاقه الشمامسة في ٣ حزيزان سنة ٢٠٠٧. وقد تمّ اختيار هذا الأحد المصادف ١١ حزيران ٢٠١٧ لأن الكنيسة تحتفل بعيد الثالوث الأقدس، ولأن آخر قداس أقامه الأب رغيد وشارك فيه الشمامسة الشهداء رفاق دربه بسمان يوسف داود وغسان عصام بيداويد ووحيد حنا ايشوع كان بالتحديد في هذا العيد الطقسي.
يُذكر بأن الأب رغيد كان طالباً في هذا المعهد الكهنوتي لمدة سبع سنوات (١٩٩٦ ـ ٢٠٠٣)، الخمسة الأولى منها كأكليريكي وسنتان ككاهن، وكان قد أقام قداسه الإلهي الأول في كنيسة المعهد ذاتها. وبعد تجديد تلك الكنيسة أراد المونسنيور ليّم بيركن أن يخلد ذكرى طالبه الشهيد رغيد بوضع صورته في فسيفساء، ذلك العمل الفني الرائع الذي قام به الفنان المشهور الأب روبنيك اليسوعي ومدرسته الفنية مركز أليتتي. كما وضع مونسنيور بيركن ذخيرتين للأب الشهيد رغيد في المذبح، الأولى هي الكتاب الطقسي الذي كان يستعمله في الصلوات طوال فترة التنشئة في ذلك المعهد، والثانية هي هورار كان يتوشح به خلال فترة خدمته الراعوية في الموصل.
ترأس القداس الإلهي المونسنيور كيران اوكْارولّ مدير المعهد وشارك فيه الاباء الكهنة وطلاب المعهد والمؤمنين. كما شارك أيضا في الذبيحة الإلهية مجموعة من الأباء الكهنة العراقيين الدارسين في روما والأخوات الراهبات وطلاب وطالبات وبعض أصدقاء الأب الشهيد رغيد من ضمنهم وسام وفادية، وكذلك الأب نجيب ميخائيل الدومنيكي والأب جنان شامل. وعظ الأب ريبوار عوديش باسمه مستذكراً الشهادة الإنجيلية التي قدمها الأب رغيد طوال فترة خدمته في أبرشية الموصل بالرغم من الاضطهادات والوضعية المأسوية منذ ذلك الحين حيث كان الأب رغيد نفسه يصفها بأسوء من الجحيم، إلى أن قدم حياته ذبيحة مع رفاقه الشمامسة الثلاثة من أجل إيمانهم ومحبتهم للرب ولكنيستهم وللشعب العراقي المتألم والجريح. كما ذكرَت والدته السيدة كُرجيه سليمان التي كانت قد قالت بمناسبة الذكرى العاشرة على استشهاد ابنها بأنها تتذكره في كل قداس إلهي تشارك فيه وخاصة قداس الأحد، ويبدو لها وكأنه الأب رغيد ذاته يقيم كل قداسٍ تحضره.
بعد القداس الإلهي عُرِضَ الكتاب الذي ألفه الأب ريبوار بعنوان كاهن كاثوليكي في الدولة الإسلامية، وهو عن حياة الأب رغيد واستشهاده مع رفاق دربه الشهداء الشمامسة الشبان وحيد وبسمان وغسان. كما عرض الفلم القصير التي تم أعداده من قبل الأخت الدومنيكية ماري رجاء وبالتعاون مع (Wake up project) وهو أيضاً عن حياة واستشهاد الأب رغيد ورفاقه الثلاثة وحيد وبسمان وغسان.
"يَا أَبَتَاهُ، إِنْ شِئْتَ أَنْ تُجِيزَ عَنِّي هذِهِ الْكَأْسَ. وَلكِنْ لِتَكُنْ لاَ إِرَادَتِي بَلْ إِرَادَتُك"
(لوقا ٢٢، ٤٢)
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me;
yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22,42)
Dear brothers and sisters, Fr. Ragheed of the Eucharist, was tenderly called Paddy. He was an Iraqi priest, a martyr of the third millennium, chose the aforesaid words from the Holy Scripture as a way of his new life in the day of his priestly ordination which took place in this Eternal City, Rome on 13th October 2001. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22,42). He remained faithful to the promise which he made at the beginning of his priesthood and he realized it in his short life. He accepted the will of God in his life following the example of Jesus Christ, and he drank the cup. That is why his Bishop, the martyr Mgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho decided to write that verse from the Holy Scripture on the tombstone of Fr. Ragheed: “Father, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22,42). This shows the coherent life of this martyr of Christ. What he promised on the day of his ordination, he fulfilled it until the last moment of his life. He knew well and from the very beginning that the priesthood is about service and sacrifice rather than about power and privilege. A priest, every priest, in celebrating the Holy Mass, offers also himself to God and to the church.
Fr. Ragheed wrote what he called “My last prayer”, in the evening of 12th October 2006, after participating in the funeral of another priest named Fr. Paulos Eskander, who was a friend of Fr. Ragheed, and he was kidnapped by terrorists on 9th October 2006, and killed brutally by cutting his hands and legs before decapitating him in 11th October 2006. In that prayer, Fr. Ragheed did not ask God to protect him from terrorists, save him or free him from all those troubles. He simply confessed his weakness as human being and he asked God, saying: "Lord give me the strength not to humiliate your priesthood that I represent”. The Lord answered his prayer, by giving him the strength not to humiliate the priesthood of Christ, but to honour it.
The last Holy Mass Fr. Ragheed has celebrated before his martyrdom was on a Trinity Sunday of 3rd June 2007, which we are celebrating today. After that last Holy Mass, he and his friends and subdeacons Ghasan Basman, Waheed and Mrs Baian, Waheed’s wife, left the church with two cars and the terrorists followed them. They stopped them, ordering to get out of the cars and asked them to raise their hands. They raised their hands and after that there was a tense dialogue between one of those killers and Fr. Ragheed. He asked Fr. Ragheed, “We said to close the church, why did not you close it?” His response, with so much courage, simplicity, and cunning was, “We cannot close the house of God”. In this moment, they killed him with the other three subdeacons. This is what the only witness, Mrs Baian, the wife of Waheed, one of the three subdeacons martyrs, testified. Fr. Ragheed suffered numerous bullets wounds on his face, heart and the whole body. His identity card and two little pictures of Jesus and of Mary which he carried with him were also perforated.
“We cannot close the house of God”. Closing that house of God means denying Jesus Christ and saying to believers not to practice their faith which was unimaginable for Fr. Ragheed. While he was studying in Rome, he learned by heart the prophetic words of the Pope John Paul II, who said: “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ”. So How could he submit to the orders of those terrorists and be afraid and close the doors for Christ!
He lived here in this college for seven years. One of you may be now living in the same room where he lived, another may be sitting now in the same place where he used to sit and pray, and I am standing now in the same place where he stood for the first time as a priest to preach during Mass. He lives with us through that mosaic and relics. Fr. Ragheed is one of us, he continues to be with us and his mission should be continued through each of us.
He was one like us and he had his difficulties, weaknesses and worries. So, what was the secret of his strong will to resist for almost five years in a city which he himself described as “worse than a hell”? The prayer and especially the Eucharist was the source of his strength to resist, as he personally mentioned: “I received a letter, an hour before celebrating the Eucharist, warning me that there will be an attack against my parish church. I started the celebration, and the church was crowded. I felt so weak and worried about my community, although I directed some of the young people to guard the church from outside. While I was lifting up the Body of Christ in the rite before the communion, as to say, ‘this is the lamp of God who takes away the sins of World’: I felt Jesus saying to all these people that he himself holds the people in his hands just as I am holding Jesus in my hands. Because the people accepted the challenge and despite being threatened by the terrorists, they came to be united with Christ. There was a power overshadowing me that is the power of his endless Love. It was the same Love that was embracing my being and all those who were calling upon his name and asking him for strength”.
Who wants to know Fr. Ragheed better, has to know the history of his country Iraq, the ancient Mesopotamia. His church is persecuted always since it was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle. To know fr. Ragheed, it is also important to know him as a student here at the Pontifical Irish college, where he lived for 7 years.
Concerning the terrible situation, a day before his martyrdom Fr. Ragheed sent his last e-mail to his professor in Angelicum, Fr. Robert Christian, saying: “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 of it were wounded after an attack. We shall meet in the near future and have a chat about all these events”. The martyrdom prevented him to come to Rome and to chat with his professor about those events. I as his student, wished to honour him by writing a book about his life and martyrdom with the support and help of his family, friends, the Pontifical Irish college, the Pontifical Foundation Church in Need, and Cardinal Fernando Filoni. Through this book I intent to bring out what ISIS attempted to do, that is to wipe out for ever the tombstone of Fr. Ragheed by destroying it after dismantling his diocese.
Knowing all details about the situation of the diocese of Mosul such as its invasion and destruction by the ISIS, we shall ask ourselves: Who of us is ready to resist for almost five years to be in a situation which is worse than hell?! This is the greatness of the testimony of our Martyr, who lived 5 years as a martyr even before being shot to die in 5 seconds as a martyr, together with his fellows the young subdeacons Waheed, Ghasan and Basman.
Fr. Ragheed’s email to his friends, the students of the Pontifical Irish College, in October 2004 proves that he lived as a Martyr since then. He addressed them from his parish in Mosul, saying: “Dear friends, A year is over since my return to my country, Iraq. It was neither in my mind in the previous seven years living outside the country, nor in the formation program which I underwent in the Pontifical Irish College, even to think of going through such a terrifying experience, the experience of serving in a country where violence and “terrorism” are depriving tens of human beings their life every day”.
Do you know what his mother said on the day of the tenth anniversary of the martyrdom of her beloved son? She said that in each Holy Mass she participates, she feels as though her son himself is celebrating the Mass and she feels it especially on Sundays.
As we have already heard that the last Holy Mass Fr. Ragheed celebrated was on the feast of the Holy Trinity. Now as we are celebrating this feast, we also celebrate the victory of our martyr who did not deny his faith in the Trinity.
In his preface of the book: a Catholic Priest in the Islamic State, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who knew Father Ragheed personally during his time as apostolic nuncio in Iraq, states: “The marvellous witness of faith of Father Ragheed deserves to be kept present in the memory of the Church … Every young man who is attracted to priesthood, every young priest who begins his pastoral ministry should know the brief story of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, barbarically killed on June 3, 2007 at age of 35”.
Fr. Ragheed is an example of perseverance in witnessing to the Gospel and to the love of God in the midst of hate, conflict and violence that we have in this troubled world.
The most important thing that I learned from him is perseverance and patience. My Prof. Fr. Ragheed in addition to what he taught me during the course on ecumenism, which he proved it with the ecumenism of blood, he also taught me that I should overcome evil by good, terrorism by courage, threat of closed doors by the freedom of opened doors, destruction by reconstruction, hate by love, and death by the faith in eternal life. Thank you Fr. Ragheed.
I would like to thank the Pontifical Irish College and the whole Irish Church in the name of the persecuted church in Iraq, and especially in the name of Fr. Ragheed’s family. Thank you for the formation that you gave for him and for all other priests who came after him in this college including me. Thank you for the mosaic in which you did not forget to art Fr. Ragheed. Thank you for organizing the tenth anniversary of his martyrdom. In this occasion, I would like to mention and thank the Pontifical Association church in Need for encouraging and supporting me to write his biography, and for the support given to him by granting him a scholarship when he was in Rome. Many thanks to St. Thomas Aquinas University for his academic formation. Many thanks to The Lay centre and to the Saint Egidio community for the friendship with him. Many thanks to all of you, friends and compatriots of our Martyr. The big one however goes to Fr. Ragheed and the subdeacon martyrs Waheed, Ghasan and Basman who teach us how to live and die for Christ, who lived, died and resurrected for us.
I would like to conclude with the words with which Fr. Ragheed concluded his email to his friends in the Pontifical Irish college in 2004, by saying: “All these events, though being so sad, became lessons for me to strive and survive. Your prayers were of a great support. I always felt your solidarity. Although I feel the necessity that people in Iraq, and in particular Christians, have the right to live as any human being with dignity and freedom, I still feel that the current situation is a way to give testimony in a world seeking hope. That is why I am still optimist that a better future is getting nearer than we ever thought. Please keep us all in your prayers so peace and justice may be established. May the Lord bless you all. Yours in Christ. Fr. Ragheed Ganni”.
Fr. Rebwar Audish BASA
Trinity Sunday, 11th June 2017
Pontifical Irish College – Rome