‘Witness to Christ – Martyrs yesterday and today’ Conference in the Pontifical Irish College, Rome

30 May 2008

30 May 2008

‘Witness to Christ – Martyrs yesterday and today’ Conference in the Pontifical Irish College, Rome on the first anniversary of the death of Fr Ragheed Ganni
Witness to Christ – Martyrs yesterday and today is the title of a conference being held in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome tomorrow, Saturday 31 May 2008 to mark the first anniversary of the death of Fr Ragheed Ganni. Fr Ragheed Ghanni, who was a student at the Pontifical Irish College from 1996 to 2003, was ambushed and murdered with three companions in Iraq on 3 June 2007.

The conference will be opened by Monsignor Liam Bergin, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College. Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity among Christians will attend the conference and chair a session on The Eucharist and Suffering. The conference will also have sessions on The Martyrs of Ireland and England and Contemporary Christian Experience of Martyrdom.

Other participants include: Dr Donna Orsuto, Director of The Lay Centre in Rome,; Rev Joseph Agius OP, Rector of the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas; Dr Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity and Fellow and President of Magdalene College, Cambridge; Dr Philip J.Rosato SJ, Senior Fellow of Woodstock Theological Centre; Dr Andrew Riccardi, President of Comunità di Sant’Egidio and Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Under- Secretary for Relations with States. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri will preside at Vespers in the Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati at Celio on Saturday evening.

Monsignor Liam Bergin, rector of the Pontifical Irish College commented: “During his seven years of study in Rome, Ragheed was unable to return to Iraq during the Summer months. Because of this he came to Ireland and helped with pilgrims on Lough Derg. President McAleese was among the many people who got to know Ragheed there.

“Ragheed Ganni knew the danger he faced by deciding to remain in his parish in Mosul. He had received many threats but he refused to put his own safety before the spiritual and physical welfare of his parishioners. While his death is a great loss to his family and friends and to the Chaldean Church, it is also a source of encouragement for many who continue to suffer. Throughout the centuries, the witness of the martyrs has inspired hope and courage in the face of oppression and persecution. By hosting this conference on the first anniversary of Ragheed Ganni’s death, it is our hope to highlight the plight of Christians who suffer for their faith and to bring renewed attention on the Christians of Iraq who are confronted by danger on a daily basis.”

The register of the Irish College, Rome records the names of four students who by their deaths witnessed to Christ. The first was Philip Cleary from Raphoe. He returned to Ireland in 1640 and two years later died a martyr. Oliver Plunkett was a student in the Irish College from 1647 to 1654 and then a professor at Propaganda Fide and finally a reforming Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland. He was martyred in Tyburn in 1681 and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1975. Archbishop Michael Courtney, a student at the Irish College from 1963 to 1968, was killed while serving as Papal Nuncio in Burundi on 29 December 2003. Ragheed Ganni from Mosul, Iraq was a student at the Irish College from 1996 to 2003 and was ordained a priest in 2001. Having concluded his post-graduate studies, he returned to his diocese. On 3 June 2007 having celebrated the Eucharist with his parishioners, Ragheed and three companions were ambushed and murdered.

The conference will be attended by about 120 people.

Notes to Editors:

  • Further information on the conference is available on the college website: www.irishcollege.org
  • A photograph of Fr Ragheed is available on request from the Catholic Communications Office. The Irish College Rome was founded on 1 January 1628 by the Irish Franciscan, Fr Luke Wadding and the Italian Cardinal, Ludivico Ludovisi.
  • The College is the only surviving example of the large number of Irish seminaries established on the European mainland during the penal law period in Ireland to educate priests for the Irish Church. Past pupils include Saint Oliver Plunkett and Blessed Columba Marmion. Today, while the primary function of the College is the formation of seminarians and priests for Ireland, it has also expanded to include the education of clergy from other parts of the world.
  • The College also organises different events for the Irish and for the wider international community in Rome. Some 250 couples celebrate their marriage at the College each year; young people are prepared for the sacraments of First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation; while conferences are hosted on different aspects of religion, history and culture. The College serves as a centre for the Irish community in Rome and as a focal point for Irish culture. It is also a popular centre for Irish pilgrims during the summer holiday months.


Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Irish College, Rome: 0039 0677 2631 and/or by email: [email protected]