Baghdad Priest Murdered Outside His Home

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Hundreds of Christians mourned an Assyrian Orthodox priest shot dead outside his home in Baghdad this weekend.

Grieving men and women accompanied the coffin of Fr. Yousef Adel as it was taken into the St. Peter and Paul Church for the funeral Sunday.

Watch video from the funeral procession and service above.

Fr. Yousef Adel was killed Saturday outside his home in the Karrada district of Baghdad, reported to be one of the safest areas of the city. Gunmen shot him several times in the chest as he went to close the gate to his driveway.

Assyrian Archbishop Severius Hawa, Primate of the Dioeces of Baghdad and Basra said there had been no threats against the church, but he believed the priest was targeted because of his faith.

"He was still in his religious garments so we believe they followed him from the market to his house and killed him," he told The New York Times. "The most important point is that he was killed because he was a religious man."

Hawa blamed 'the hand of the devil' for violence against Iraqis of all religious backgrounds, Muslim and Christian alike.

Fr. Yousef had been an engineer before entering the priesthood six years ago. He was described as a compassionate man who preached love and peace and helped serve the needs of widows and orphans

"He was helping the poor. He was always asking about the needy people," said one of the mourners.

His murder is "catastrophic for Christians," a priest told The Washington Post. "In Baghdad, it's the first time a priest has been killed."

Iraq's tiny Christian community has suffered church bombings, murder, and kidnappings since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. There were about 800,000 Christians in Iraq before the invasion, but about half that number have been forced to leave their homes, seeking refuge in other parts of Iraq and in neighboring countries.

The attackers are "blind, mercenary people, who attack Christians because we are so few in Iraq and we cannot respond on a large scale," an elderly man who works at the church told Reuters. "But this is our country and our life. We will endure it."

Emmanuel III Delly, the Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, offered reconciliation. "We are ready to forgive the people who committed these crimes for the sake of the single family of Iraq," he said.

Sources: The Associated Press, Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Times.

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