Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni
Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni was born on January 20, 1972, in Karamles, northern Iraq. In 1996, he obtained his degree in Civil Engineering and was sent to Rome, where he enrolled at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas to study Ecumenical Theology. He was ordained a priest in Rome on October 13, 2001, at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, and he celebrated his first Mass in the chapel at the Irish College.
Father Ragheed was enthusiastic to return to Iraq to serve Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world. As soon as he arrived in Iraq, he worked vigorously for his congregation. He set up catechist courses for the faithful of Mosul; he worked with the young, and supported many disadvantaged families; he even accompanied a small child with serious eye problems to undergo surgery in Rome.
On June 3, 2007, Trinity Sunday, Father Ragheed was killed along with three sub-deacons, including his cousin in front of Mosul’s Holy Spirit Chaldean Church. The three sub-deacons had recently decided to accompany Fr. Ragheed because of threats against his life. The killers booby-trapped the bodies so that it took hours before they could be collected.
From Nineveh to Lough Derg
An extract from a diary of Father Ragheed Ganni when he was in Ireland
It was rather by accident than design that I found myself in Lough Derg the first time. The flow of life had carried me from the banks of the mighty Tigris in Iraq to the Tiber in Rome where I study and flowed into a remote lough and its island in Co Donegal, St Patrick’s Purgatory.
I remember clearly my first day on Lough Derg, asking such questions: “what am I doing here? Am I mad? What are these people doing here? What sort of place is this exactly?” The wind, the rain, the cold weather! I remember thinking “what a place is this, yet here I am and here I must stay. I will overcome all of this and help the staff to organise the various activities around the island. Throughout the days and weeks, I began to learn about the place, discovering its own particular style and history. Slowly those first impressions, a mixture of curiosity and horror, gave away to a deeper appreciation of both the rich heritage of Celtic Spirituality of the island and of the island experience and the reason why people came and came back to the island.
I was really impressed by the devotion of the pilgrims, so much so that at the end of my work on Lough Derg I decided to go on pilgrimage myself. Lough Derg is quite unique. A place where you go with heavy burdens, leaving them there touched by the hand of God.
The next year I decided to return to work on Lough Derg, I was given a job again, for five weeks this time. Now that I had experienced life on St Patrick’s purgatory, I was looking forward to returning to the beautiful liturgies celebrated on the island. The liturgical action, both inside and outside the basilica evoked in me the close presence of God, his love and mercy for us all.
On the island of Lough Derg, I sat watching the water being gently lifted by the wind lapping against the shore and remembered the words of the Psalmist: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Sion. “I have travelled from my home by the banks of the rivers of Babylon, to a place I thought was the end of the world and to an island on a remote lake in Co Donegal. There, “at the end of the world” I have sat down and been with the pilgrims ‘doing the beds’, being annoyed by fasting midges I have sat- through not wept- and remembered not Sion but my home of Nineveh and above all the great thing that binds these two places together, namely the Christian faith.
Father Ragheed Ganni
Martyr of love
Peace be with you father Raghid
They did not think
That by killing you, you will be born again
They did not think
That your pure blood will irrigate the grain fields
Your death has turned into a feast day
If they kill you today: Tomorrow a thousand Raghids will be born
You are dead in body but your spirit is like the blood flowing in the veins
With love, you defeated the bullets of treachery and you gained the unique mystery
My poetry is unable to describe you, for you are above all my poems
Our hearts cried at your departure
A human, a priest and a martyr
By: Saad Raymond
Translated by: Robert Ewan