VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has given its permission for the opening of the sainthood cause of an Iraqi priest and three deacons who were murdered by armed gunmen in Mosul.

The Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave the “nihil obstat (no objection),” permitting a diocesan bishop to open a local inquiry into a candidate’s sanctity, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, May 14.

Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, who was killed for the faith June 3, 2007 in Mosul, is seen with a group of young adults. (Courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need)

Fides confirmed that the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit would be handling the process because of the difficult conditions facing the Church in Mosul.

Chaldean Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, his cousin Dcn. Basman Yousef Daud, and Dcns. Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed June 3, 2007, in front of the Holy Spirit Church in Mosul. Fr. Ganni had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost.

The three deacons had been accompanying Fr. Ganni because of increasing threats against him by militants. According to AsiaNews, armed gunman shot the four men and then booby trapped their car with explosives to prevent others from safely recovering the bodies.

Fr. Ganni was born in Mosul in 1972. He graduated in engineering and studied theology from 1996 to 2003 at Rome’s Pontifical Irish College and the Pontifical University of Thomas Aquinas the “Angelicum,” where he received a license in ecumenical theology.

Fr. Felix Shabi, corbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Vicariate of Arizona and pastor of Mar Abraham Chaldean Catholic Parish in Scottsdale, was a cousin of Fr. Ganni and the two grew up together in Iraq.