Murder in Mosul?

archbishoprahhoA few of you noted the relative lack of coverage of both the kidnapping and death of Chaldean Catholic Paulos Faraj Rahho, Archbishop of Mosul. His body was discovered yesterday. And it's true -- there just wasn't much coverage of this kidnapping, even in the religious press. When the news broke early yesterday, it wasn't enough to make a dent in the all-Spitzer, all-the-time scandal coverage.

Today there are a few stories. This one, from Agence France-Press, caught my eye for it's inability to treat the archbishop's death in even a slightly reverential manner:

Bush condemns Iraq archbishop's 'murder'

US President George W. Bush on Thursday denounced the "murder" of an abducted Chaldean Catholic archbishop in Iraq, despite uncertainty about how he died, and condemned recent violence there.

Yes, Rahho did die after being abducted in a shootout that killed two of his companions. And yes, he did tell his flock not to pay the ransom that was being demanded for his return. But by all means, let's lead the story with snarky quotes around the word "murder."

The thing is that it's true that, at press time, it wasn't determined how the archbishop had died. The Washington Post skirted the issue, instead focusing on the reaction to the death from Iraqis and Catholics in the brief report filed by Cameron Barr.

But I rather liked how The New York Times handled the death, particularly in contrast to AFP's joke of a story:

The death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, evoked expressions of grief and anger from the Vatican and world leaders, including Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani.

Officials of the Chaldean Church in Iraq said they had received a call telling them where the body was buried. The cause of death was not clear. An official of the morgue in Mosul said the archbishop, who was 65 and had health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes, might have died of natural causes.

Church officials said Thursday, however, that Archbishop Rahho was shot in the leg when he was abducted on Feb. 29. Gunmen sprayed his car with bullets, killed two bodyguards and shoved the archbishop into the trunk of a car, the church officials said. In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said.

"He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions," the officials said.

The Times story is lengthy and puts the violence against the archbishop in the context of the suffering the Christian minority has endured throughout Iraq. It's educational, engaging and tightly-written.

Still, the kidnapping and death of this archbishop is not a minor story and one that should have been covered more.

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