BAGHDAD, Apr. 7, 2008 ( - Iraqi Christians joined in mourning after a Syrian Orthodox priest was murdered in Baghdad on April 5.

Father Yusef Adel was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in the Iraqi capital. The killing occurred than 3weeks after the death after Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Faraj Raho was found dead, after having been kidnapped from outside his cathedral in Mosul.

Syrian Orthodox Bishop Matti Shaba Matoka presided at the funeral for Father Adel, with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Francis Chulikatt, representing the city's Catholic leadership.

The AsiaNews service reported that the new killing caused "great fear" among Iraq's Christians, who have seen a drive by Islamic militants to drive the religious minority out of the country.

The campaign of violence and intimidation against Christians has taken an enormous toll. The number of Christians living in Iraq today is estimated at under 500,000-- roughly half what it was before the start of the war in 2003.

In a message of condolence to Syrian Orthodox leaders, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) promised his prayers, "that all people will follow the ways of peace in order to build a just and tolerant society in the beloved land of Iraq."

(Source: Catholic World News, April 7, 2008)