MOSUL, Iraq Relatives of an Orthodox priest who was kidnapped and found beheaded three days later said Thursday that his captors had demanded his church condemn the pope’s recent comments about Islam and pay a US$350,000 (€280,000) ransom.
More than 500 people attended a memorial service Thursday for father Amer Iskender in the northern city of Mosul after his decapitated body was found Wednesday evening in an industrial area of the city.
Iskender was a priest at the St. Ephrem Orthodox church in Mosul.
"He was a good man and we all shed tears for him," said Eman Saaur, a 45-year-old schoolteacher who said she attended Iskender’s church regularly. "He was a man of peace."
Relatives, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the unidentified group that seized Iskender on Sunday had demanded a ransom and that his church condemn a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI last month that ignited a wave anger throughout the Muslim world. In a speech at a German university the pope quoted a medieval text that characterized some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as "evil and inhuman," declaring Islam was a religion spread by the sword.