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Catholic World News News Feature

Kidnapped Iraqi archbishop freed January 18, 2005

Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, Iraq, was released on Tuesday morning, January 18, less than a day after being kidnapped.

Details of the archbishop's abduction and release were incomplete, as of Tuesday morning. But the Vatican was notified promptly that Archbishop Casmoussa had been freed, and papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls expressed "great satisfaction" with the news.

"The Pope was informed immediately, and thanked God" for the Iraqi prelate's release, Navarro-Valls added. He said that no ransom had been paid.

Earlier, Church officials in Iraq had been quoted as saying that they had received a ransom demand. Father Tetrus Mosei, the vicar general of the Mosul diocese, reportedly received a phone call on Tuesday morning demanding payment of $200,000 for the archbishop's release. Catholics in Mosul were collecting funds for the ransom payment when they heard that Archbishop Casmoussa was already free.

In Rome, Navarro-Valls said that the archbishop's abduction came as a surprise, in part because he is "very well liked by both Christians and Muslims."

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who heads the Chaldean Catholic diocese of Mosul (Archbishop Casmoussa is the Syrian-rite leader), suggested that the kidnapping was probably not motivated by religious issues. He told reporters that criminals in Mosul, taking advantage of the unrest in the city, have begun kidnapping prominent people to generate quick profits from ransoms.

Details of the archbishop's release are unclear-- as are the reasons why his abductors would have freed him without payment of ransom. But Msgr. Thomas Habib, an official at the apostolic nunciature in Baghdad, told the AsiaNews service that he had spoken with Archbishop Casmoussa personally. And Patriarch Emmanuel Delly, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, reported that the archbishop was resting comfortably at home, unharmed.

Archbishop Casmoussa was seized on Monday afternoon, January 17, by a group of armed men who seized him on the street in Mosul, threw him into the trunk of a car, and sped off. The perpetrators of the kidnapping have not yet been identified.

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