Iraq's Christian minority has been mourning the death of the Catholic Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. The Christian leader's body was found Thursday, more than two weeks after he was abducted by gunmen in the northern Iraqi city. Daniel Schearf reports from the nearby city of Irbil.
Thousands of Chaldean Christians gathered across Iraq Friday to pay their respects to the Chaldean Archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho.
The archbishop was abducted in late February by gunmen as he was leaving Mass. The abductors shot and killed three of his colleagues. Rahho's body was found this week in a shallow grave just outside of Mosul.
He appeared to have died some days ago, but it was not clear if his abductors murdered him or if he died of natural causes while in captivity.
Rahho was laid to rest in a church in the village of Kirmles, just east of Mosul, in services broadcast live on national television.
Mourners threw flowers on the rose-covered coffin as it was carried through the church and ritually tapped against the walls.
In the Christian village of Ankawa, just north of Irbil, hundreds gathered to pray for a man they say was universally loved.
Bishop Rufaael Bettu of the Saint Rafaael Church spoke to Iraqi television.
He says the bishop was a man of peace, a man of prayer, a man of love, a man of dialogue and a man of tolerance. He says to those who committed this crime, they should not think that Christianity will end in Iraq. But rather, he says, the blood of martyrs like Archbishop Rahho will flower new life.
The death of the archbishop was condemned by Iraqi officials and internationally.
There are fewer than 1 million Christians in Iraq and Chaldeans are the largest group.
But thousands have fled since sectarian violence broke out following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Muslim terrorists and criminal groups have targeted Iraqi Christians accusing them of being "crusaders" for American-led forces. Many have been killed and abducted.
Rahho was the second archbishop abducted in Mosul in the last three years. In 2005 the Assyrian Archbishop was taken by gunmen, but released a day later unharmed.