“You Have Been a Good and Faithful Servant”

CITY BEACH, Australia, JUNE 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a memorial letter sent to ZENIT from a companion of Father Ragheed Ganni. Father Ganni and three deacons were shot and killed in Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday after Mass.

* * *

I studied in Rome as a seminarian for the Archdioceses of Perth, Western Australia, at the Pontifical Irish College, and attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas from 1997 to 2001. I am now the rector of Holy Spirit Parish in City Beach, Perth, Western Australia.

Father Ragheed Ganni was the first seminarian that I had met in the college; he was gracious enough to show me to my room.

Though we couldn’t communicate at first through speech because I couldn’t speak Aramaic and Father Ragheed couldn’t speak English yet, throughout our years in the seminary we became good friends.

Father Ragheed had a friendly nature and a warm welcoming simile. He was very prayerful and had a great sense of the sacred, with a deep spirituality and union with God. He was diligent in studies and very much respected by the faculty and his peers of the college. He was always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need, or just to spend time with you for a friendly chat.

He was an extremely intelligent fellow. He was able to speak six languages and was to return to the Irish College next year to commence his doctorate thesis.

Each year Father Ragheed would spend his summers in Ireland working in Lough Derg, which is a place of pilgrimage in the North of Ireland, enabling him to send money home to buy much needed medical supplies. He also did a lot of things behind the scene for Iraqis. He was always putting others first.

I remember one summer Father Ragheed stayed with me in St. Malcay’s Seminary in Belfast. It was around July 12, which is the marching season in the North.

That night there was rioting just outside the gates of the seminary and we could hear gun shots and the screams of the police and ambulance sirens. It was a long night and Father Ragheed spoke about the sufferings and persecution of the Christians living in Iraq.

When war broke out in Iraq, Father Ragheed was devastated, having been away from his family for seven years and now all communication with his homeland was broken. It was months before he could find out if his family was safe. This was an extremely difficult time for him, but through it all, he found consolation in his prayers.

Father Ragheed visited me in Perth 2003 for the summer; it was wonderful to spend that time together in the parish. We spoke about his returning to Iraq and what that might mean.

Father Ragheed was very loyal to his bishop and to the people of his diocese. He was aware of the dangers of returning to Iraq where Christians had been targeted by Muslim extremists. Knowing the risk to his own life, he gladly accepted the challenge of administering the sacraments to his people.

Father Ragheed was like a brother to me, and my heart is sad because the world is a much lonelier place without him.

I remember the times we would spend Christmas in the college when all the other students would return home for the break. We had Rome to ourselves, now it is all yours.

Rest well my friend, for you have been a good and faithful servant, your martyrdom lives on and, I am sure, will encourage other young men to join the ranks of Christ to continue the work of salvation.

Now your eternal priesthood begins, with the whole heavenly court behind you.

I am sure that Father Ragheed and the martyrdom of his companions will bear much fruit bringing about religious freedom, unity and peace to the people of Iraq.

My prayers are with Father Ragheed’s family and the families of his companions; Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wadid Hanna.

May there be peace in Iraq.

Pax Christi,
Father Don Kettle

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