Some 500 people attended yesterday the funeral of Fr Paulos Eskandar at Mosul's Syrian-Orthodox St Ephrem Church. Father Eskandar, who was abducted on Monday, was founded beheaded some time later.
The clergyman's relatives confirmed that his captors had demanded the payment of a US$ 350,000 ransom and that his church apologise for the Pope's Regensburg remarks about Islam.
In condemning the murder, Mgr Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary Chaldean bishop of Baghdad, confirmed "negotiations were underway but that the amount of money was too high and could not be raised. For this reason they decapitated him".
Father Eskander's decapitated body was found on Wednesday in Mosul's Muharaibin neighbourhood. His arms showed signs of torture.
Iraq's highest Sunni religious authority, the Ulema Council, called the priest's death "a cowardly murder". In a press release, they said that the Orthodox priest was well known for "his nationalist views and opposition to the occupation".
"The Ulema Council," the statement said, "condemns this cowardly killing and will not forget those who are behind this crime, committed by people who want to deprive the country of every religious and national symbol that can hold Iraq together by trying to start a religious war between sons of the same nation".