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The Pope sent a message of condolence to Mar Saverius Jamil Hawa, the Syro-Orthodox bishop of Baghdad, to offer to Father Adel’s wife and family his “deepest sympathy.”

VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Benedict XVI said he was “profoundly saddened” by the death of Syro-Orthodox Father Youssef Adel Abudi, who was murdered in his home in Baghdad.

Father Adel was killed Saturday by a group of armed men at the entrance to his house in Karrada, an area in central Baghdad.

The Pope sent a message of condolence to Mar Saverius Jamil Hawa, the Syro-Orthodox bishop of Baghdad, to offer to Father Adel’s wife and family his “deepest sympathy.” The note was signed by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

In his message the Holy Father assured the local Church of his “nearness in prayer […], entrusting the soul of this devoted servant to the infinite mercy of God.”

Benedict XVI urged prayers so “that the whole nation follow the ways of peace to build a just and tolerant society in the beloved land of Iraq.”

Speculation surrounding the murder links it to Father Adel's involvement in interreligious dialogue. The priest was the director of an integrated school attended by Christians and Muslims of both sexes.

Threats

AsiaNews reported that Father Adel had already been pressured to resign his position at the school by threats and intimidation.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported that Father Adel served the Church of St. Peter, whose parish priest, Father Doglas Youssef Al Bazi, was kidnapped in November 2006 and released nine days later.

The newspaper added, “The assassination is the latest in a series of violent acts that manifest the growing difficulties of Christians in Iraq.”

In fact, the paper said, “in recent days three Christian women and a Catholic girl were kidnapped while they were leaving the University of Baghdad.”

Meanwhile, today near Mosul, 42 male university students traveling on two buses were kidnapped by armed men, but were later freed by Iraqi military forces.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad said that he was saddened by the assassination of the Syro-Orthodox priest. He said many are ignoring Benedict XVI's pleas for peace in Iraq.

“There are some who are not interested in listening to the voice of the Holy Father and so they use every means and instrument to try to silence or trivialize his voice,” he said. “They do not accept this voice of wisdom and love for all, not just for Christians.”

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