Irish President’s Letter to Iraqi Priest’s Funeral

“Let Us Recognize Father Ragheed’s Sacrifice for What it Was”

DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 9, 2007 ( Here is the message Irish President Mary McAleese sent on the occasion of the Requiem Mass for Father Ragheed Ganni, held Thursday at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

Father Ganni and three deacons were shot and killed in Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday after Mass.

* * *

I was in Rome last weekend when the tragic news came through that Father Ragheed Ganni, someone I first met in Lough Derg some years ago, and a former student of the Irish College, had been killed with three of the deacons who worked with him — one of those deacons his cousin.

Father Ragheed’s father and mother, and all his family, must suffer great pain at this time. Their loss is all the more terrible for the suddenness and evil manner of his death. May Father Ragheed’s dear parents be sustained by their deep faith.

The manner of Father Ragheed’s death will be mourned in particular by the people of Iraq — and as his funeral mass in northern Iraq demonstrated — by the people of the whole region. Father Ragheed returned to live and minister in the ancient city of Mosul, in the parish of the Holy Spirit, in full consciousness of the risks.

There had been a bomb attack on the parish church as recently as Pentecost Sunday. Let us recognize Father Ragheed’s sacrifice for what it was. Equally, we should reflect in truth on the sequence of events that has brought so many communities in Iraq to the edge of survival. As we follow the daily tragedies of Iraq, we should pray, as Benedict XVI said, that this “costly sacrifice will inspire … a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence.”

In the middle of the forced exodus to Connaught in the 1650s, a Gaelic poet (Fear Dorcha O’Mealláin) wrote about the possibility of faith even under dire circumstances of persecution and social dislocation (An Duanaire). He spoke too of God’s oneness:

“People of my heart, stand steady,
Don’t make play of your distress.
Moses got what he requested,
Religious freedom, even from Pharaoh.

“Identical Israel’s God and ours,
One God there was and still remains.
Here or Westward God is one,
One God ever and shall be.”

Father Ragheed Ganni’s death challenges us to work for reconciliation between faiths and to create a world where each human life is revered. The process of our own island’s reconciliation that began so promisingly in Belfast a few short weeks ago may hold out hope for Father Ganni’s beloved, but troubled, homeland.

These are days of sorrow for a caring family, for a lacerated country, and for so many others. But Father Ragheed lived his life by a commandment to love. In our sorrow we remember, on this feast of Corpus Christi, his sacrifice, his willing sacrifice in service of his faith.

I thank God today for the blessing that has been given us in Father Ragheed Ganni.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dílis” (May his faithful soul be on God’s right side).

Mary McAleese
President of Ireland


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