The stunning mosaic behind the altar of the Irish College in Rome carries a poignant contemporary message: the cost of following Jesus in some parts of today’s world. As the chapel is dedicated to All the Irish Saints, the expected Irish saints, Brigid, Patrick and Columbanus are there, but so also is an Iraqi priest, Father Ragheed Ganni (1972- 2007).
Ragheed, originally an engineer, studied for the priesthood at Irish College. Ordained in 2001, he celebrated his first Mass here in the Chapel. Back in his native Mosul, and despite many death threats, and attacks on his family, house and church, Ragheed insisted on remaining to serve the people. He was murdered together with three others as he finished celebrating Mass on 3 June 2007. A reminder to us to be grateful for the freedom of religious practice in the countries in which we are present and an encouragement to pray for those Christians, religious and priests who witness to Christ in countries where such freedom is denied them.
The beautiful mosaics of the chapel are by the Slovenian Jesuit Fr Marko Ivan Rupnik and the international ecumenical community of artists at the Centro Aletti, Rome. The depiction of the saints in the mosaics follows the Orthodox Christian way of presenting holy men and women in postures of intercession with heads bowed and outstretched hands. You can read more about the mosaic and windows on the website of the Irish College: http://www.irishcollege.org/college-chapel.
Fr Ragheed is depicted at the extreme right of the image.