Assyrian Orthodox priest killed in drive-by shooting in Baghdad

4/5/2008 11:36:00 AM

BAGHDAD — An Assyrian Orthodox priest has been killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad in the latest attack against Iraq's Christian minority.

The 40-year-old priest, Youssef Adel, was shot by gunmen who drove up in a car.

An assistant said the gunmen opened fire as Adel was opening the gate of his house in a Christian enclave near St. Peter and Paul Church, where he presided.

Christians have frequently been caught up in the violence or been targeted in this predominantly Muslim country.

The body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, one of Iraq's most senior Chaldean Catholic clerics, was found March 13, about two weeks after he was seized by gunmen in the volatile northwestern city of Mosul.

Pope Benedict expressed deep pain over Adel's killing. Vatican Radio quoted a telegram as saying the pontiff is praying that "the Iraqi people find the way of peace to build a just and tolerant society."

Adel's assistant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the attack occurred about 11:30 a.m..

He said the priest, who was married but had no children, directed a religiously mixed school for Muslims and Christians at the church. The funeral was scheduled for Sunday.

Adel was an engineer but became a priest about six years ago, the assistant said.

He previously served in a church in the predominantly Sunni area of Dora in southern Baghdad but moved to the central district of Karradah after a string of attacks in the former insurgent stronghold.

The assistant said Adel was a compassionate man who preached about love and peace and was heavily involved in helping orphans and widows in his church.