“He was five years older than me. Whenever they visited his
grandfather’s house in our village of Karmless, we would see him,” said
Msgr. Shabi, who also serves as pastor of Mar Abraham Chaldean Catholic Parish
in Scottsdale. “He used to play soccer with us. … That’s what I
remember. Then, he went to the university and entered the engineering
school at Mosul. He was well-educated and became a sub-deacon in our
Chaldean church in Mosul. He was very active on the parish level.”
Fr. Ganni was killed along with three subdeacons on June 3, 2007.
In the 1990s, the archbishop of Mosul at the time, Archbishop Georges
F. Garmo, had great confidence in the young man who had such a heart
for service. If there was not a priest available to say Mass in the
outlying areas of the archdiocese, he would send his then-subdeacon,
“He would take consecrated Hosts and he would go and do the whole
Mass except the words of consecration and the epiclesis,” Msgr. Shabi
said. “He was acting like a priest even before he went to Rome to enter
the seminary. People really loved him for doing that.”
Msgr. Shabi said he saw his cousin when the two men were studying in
Rome. Fr. Ganni was a seminarian at the time and Msgr. Shabi was
pursuing his licentiate in Eastern canon law.
During the summer break, Fr. Ganni would travel to Ireland to improve
his English. He met the prime minister as well as a number of
high-ranking officials and clergymen, yet he “never bragged about
anything,” Msgr. Shabi said. “If he was with a child, he would deal with
the child in the spirit of the child. He was open to deal with any
situation and the first one to help in any situation.”
Msgr. Shabi returned to Rome in 2007 to pursue his doctoral studies
when he received the phone call that Fr. Ganni had been killed. “It was a
tragic moment, killing a young priest.”
That morning, Fr. Ganni had visited the passport office to renew his
papers… He had some pictures taken and gave his mother a copy, telling
her that she would need it one day.
“Of course, he did not tell her about all the death threats,” Msgr. Shabi said.
The announcement that the Vatican approved the opening of the cause
for canonization of Fr. Ganni and the three sub-deacons who were killed
alongside him was welcome news to Msgr. Shabi and his congregation.
“Christians in the Middle East have been enduring a serious
persecution and we have lost many, many Christians,” Msgr. Shabi said.
“Hopefully Fr. Ragheed will be the first to be recognized in a long list
of many other martyrs from the last 20 or 30 years, including
Archbishop Paulos Rahho.” The archbishop was kidnapped and killed in
“Martyrdom is an ongoing history and tradition in our Church so in a
way, it’s not a novelty. The Church is ready at all times to give
witness,” Msgr. Shabi said.