The BBC's radio news bulletins this evening have reported the finding of the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq. A full report from the Associated Press agency can be found at the International Herald Tribune website: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/03/13/africa/ME-GEN-Iraq-Slain-Bishop.php
Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped as he left his cathedral, having celebrated the Stations of the Cross. This adds some poignancy to his killing. His death is marked by the Cross, to whose power he was giving witness in the moments just before he was kidnapped. It is likely that his death can be attributed to a hostility towards the Christian faith on the part of his kidnappers, allowing Archbishop Rahho to be considered a martyr - that is, one who witnessed to the Catholic faith to the point of giving his life for it.
I take the following from a post on Fr Tim's Hermeneutic of Continuity on 20th June 2007:
"On November 21st, 2004 while Layla, a mother of two orphans, was heading home at Al-Dawara in Baghdad, a fanatic Islamist thug stopped her and ordered her to take off her Cross so she could become clean again!Layla refused to remove her Cross using strict and polite words. The extremist Moslem reached to her Cross, snapped it off, threw it on the ground, then grabbed his gun and shot her in the head."
Fr Ragheed Ganni and three deacons were also murdered in Mosul - as they left Church after a celebration of Mass.
This Good Friday, it might be good to remember these contemporary martyrs as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Passion, with its veneration of the Cross. We can pray that the power and glory of the Cross will shine a little brighter in our lives because of their testimony.