East meets West Chaldean Catholics forge friendships with Roman Catholics in Phoenix Diocese


East meets West Chaldean Catholics forge friendships with Roman Catholics in Phoenix Diocese

By Joyce Coronel | June 1, 2011 | The Catholic Sun

As more and more refugees from Iraq are relocated to Arizona, Msgr. Felix Shabi has a happy problem: his community of Chaldean Catholics continues to grow steadily.

 About 600 families belong to Mar Abraham Parish in Scottsdale and Holy Family Mission in Phoenix. Msgr. Shabi said many others live in the East Valley and Tucson.

Last November, after a brutal attack on the Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad left 58 dead, local Roman Catholics began reaching out to their Eastern-rite brothers and sisters here in the Valley.

That’s something Fr. Mike Straley wholeheartedly supports. As a longtime member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an organization that supports Christians in the Holy Land, he understands the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

“The Diocese of Phoenix is getting big enough to where we need to talk more about what it means to be Catholic,” Fr. Straley said. The word “Catholic,” he explained, means universal and refers to the universality of the Church.

Julie Nackard, area councilor of the Western Lieutenancy for the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Phoenix, met with Msgr. Shabi in March at the request of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. The bishop urged the Knights to broaden their definition of the Holy Land to include Iraq.

After hearing about the needs of the Chaldean community, Nackard spoke with fellow members about reaching out to local Iraqi Catholics. In April, the group gathered at Mar Abraham to pray the rosary and listen to a short presentation by Msgr. Shabi.

On May 17, Fr. Straley, Nackard and other members of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre enjoyed a dinner with Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly, patriarch of Babylon, who was visiting from Baghdad.

Representatives from the local Byzantine Catholic Church, including Bishop Gerald Dino, the Right Reverend Archimandrite Wes Izer and Fr. Stephen Washko, as well as representatives of the Knights of Columbus from nearby St. Patrick Parish were also in attendance.

On May 18, Msgr. Shabi concelebrated a Mass for members of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and spoke at the group’s annual dinner and business meeting at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“We are a Church of martyrs,” Msgr. Shabi said. “We trace our roots to the apostle Thomas, the one who evangelized our country.”

Explaining that tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homeland in the face of ongoing persecution, he spoke of the traumatized, orphaned children who belong to his Phoenix mission.

“One girl, she was in her mother’s arms when a bomb went off,” Msgr. Shabi said. The child’s father was killed in a separate attack a year later. The girl and her two siblings now reside with their grandmother in Phoenix.

“Martyrdom is a gift, but not everyone is meant to receive it,” Msgr. Shabi said. “Our patriarch has begged people to stay, but young families are leaving because they fear for their children’s lives.”

Experts say more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the violence plaguing the country since the ouster of Sadaam Hussein. Msgr. Shabi said his homeland’s instability has allowed terrorists from neighboring countries to enter and target Christians.

“One Christian was decapitated last week,” he told the crowd, describing horrifying photos of the dismembered body circulated on the Internet. He also told of another incident in which the Chaldean bishop of Mosul was killed.

“They collected his blood in a glass vase, saying that an infidel’s blood should not desecrate what they claim is Islamic soil,” Msgr. Shabi said.

Growing awareness

For years, many in the Phoenix Diocese were unaware of the presence of Eastern-rite Catholics. After a series of articles in The Catholic Sun spotlighted the hardships endured by Chaldean Catholics, readers responded.

Brian C. McNeil, an Iraq War veteran who served two tours, was one of those inspired to help. He contacted Msgr. Shabi and set up a meeting.

“After serving in Iraq, it bothers me to know that many people, including many Christians, had to abandon their homes and flee to other places because of extremists committed to driving them away. While the Kurdish region of Iraq has become a refuge for some, many have sought homes in the United States and around the world as an answer to the persecution in places like Baghdad and Mosul, which has become all too common,” McNeil said.

McNeil came up with a plan to help the Chaldean community in the Valley after he and his son Ezekiel visited Msgr. Shabi on a Saturday during religious education activities at the Holy Family Mission. Soon after, the McNeil family, who are parishioners at Ss. Simon and Jude and whose children attend the parish school, organized a raffle to raise money for the religious education program at the Chaldean church.

“With the support of Fr. Lankeit, Sr. Raphael [Quinn, IBVM], a good friend Don Cardon, and many others, the raffle and other activities will have raised more than $1,000 to help the faith formation of these children in our diocese,” McNeil said. “More importantly, it has helped raised the awareness of the needs of these brothers and sisters in Christ, both here and in Iraq.”

Historic meeting

On May 19, in a first-ever for the Phoenix Diocese, Bishop Olmsted met with the Chaldean patriarch.

Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly, 84, named patriarch of Babylon in 2003, has steadfastly endured as the Christian population of Iraq dwindles. Once estimated at 1.4 million, today there are fewer than 500,000. When the Oct. 31 massacre took place in Baghdad, for example, a church that in previous years might have held 500 worshippers, just 60 faithful were in attendance.

Bishop Olmsted and Cardinal Delly discussed their years in Rome as they sampled homemade Iraqi pastries and sipped tea. Both men had spent more than a dozen years each living and working in the Eternal City.

Bishop Olmsted paid tribute to the patriarch’s unflinching courage in the face of ongoing persecution of Christians in his homeland. He told Cardinal Delly he hoped to visit Iraq one day.

As a member of the USCCB’s committee on ecumenical and interfaith relations for the United States, Bishop Olmsted said the commission wanted to visit a region characterized by interfaith and ecumenical cooperation.

“One of the things we proposed to do was to go to Syria and Iraq,” the bishop said. “In those countries, because of persecution, they’ve had to stick together and overcome sometimes some longstanding differences or misunderstandings. We felt we could learn a lot from them.”


Iraq: “Pessimistic” Iraqi Christians see no end in sight to the violence against them

Iraq: “Pessimistic” Iraqi Christians see no end in sight to the violence against them

    Posted by Press Release on 6/6/2011, 5:30 pm
    Message modified by board administrator 7/6/2011, 9:58 am

    ACN News: Monday, 6th June 2011 – IRAQ

    In search of a future

    “Pessimistic” Iraqi Christians see no end in sight to the violence against them

    By John Newton and John Pontifex

    A LEADING bishop has described how Christians in Iraq believe “there is no future” for them there but are afraid to flee abroad because of political uncertainty and crisis in neighbouring countries.
    Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq, described the people’s shock after father of four Arakan Yacob, an Orthodox Christian, was shot dead on Tuesday (31st May) in the nearby city of Mosul.
    Mr Yacob’s killing is the latest in a series of attacks. According to Archbishop Warda, since 2002 more than 570 Christians have been killed in religiously and politically-motivated violence.
    In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Warda said that since Mr Yacob’s death a number of the faithful had said they wanted to emigrate.
    But he said emigration was difficult because of political crisis and uncertainty in neighbouring Syria and Turkey.
    Both countries have already provided sanctuary to many thousands of Christians who fled persecution in the years since 2003, when religious violence suddenly escalated after the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

    (Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq)

    Speaking from Erbil, Archbishop Warda told ACN: “The latest murder adds to the pessimistic view that there is no future.
    “No matter how you try to convince people things are getting better they say look at these things that are happening.”
    Describing renewed talk of emigration among Iraqi Christians, he went on: “Even the situation in neighbouring Turkey is not that good and with what’s going on in Syria at the moment a family thinking of emigration has limited choices.”
    But he refused to be downcast. He said: “The message of hope is always there – life should go on – that’s the message.”
    Archbishop Warda has, nonetheless, made no secret of his people’s suffering.
    He has provided statistics showing that since the 1980s Christians in Iraq had plummeted from up to 1.4 million to as low as 150,000.
    Amid reports of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the country, he went on to state that between 2006 and 2010, 17 Iraqi priests and two Iraqi bishops had been abducted and were either beaten or tortured by their kidnappers.
    Of those, one bishop, four priests and three sub-deacons were killed.
    With no sign of an end to the violence, it has now emerged that Mr Yacob, the Mosul Christian who died this week, had been the target of two previous kidnapping attempts.
    His death came three weeks after the body of kidnap victim Ashur Yacob Issa, 29, was discovered on 16th May.
    Mr Issa’s family said they were unable to pay the $95,000 ransom demanded by his kidnappers.
    As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need has prioritised help for Iraq in line with a 2007 directive from Pope Benedict XVI to help the Church in the Middle East where he said “it is threatened in its very existence”.
    ACN has provided emergency aid for refugees in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, food parcels for displaced Christians in northern Iraq, Mass offerings for poor and oppressed priests, support for Sisters and help for seminarians displaced to the north of the country.
    Thanking ACN, Archbishop Warda said: “It is reassuring to know that people are praying for us.”

    Editor’s Notes

    Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
    The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
    While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

    For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: info@aidtochurch.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148.

    On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org

Syrie : Les jésuites appellent à rejeter la violence

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-28139?l=french

Syrie : Les jésuites appellent à rejeter la violence

ROME, Lundi 6 juin 2011 (ZENIT.org) – « Bouleversés » par les événements récents qui ont ensanglanté la Syrie, les jésuites présents dans le pays ont invité toutes les parties à rejeter la violence, dans un document signé à Damas le 3 juin dernier.

« Depuis quelques mois, surgissent dans notre pays, comme dans la plupart des pays arabes, des revendications de réformes des structures politiques et sociales », affirment-ils. « De telles revendications sont un droit légitime et reconnu pour tous, permettant à chaque citoyen d’être un acteur dela transformation de cette société ».

Malheureusement, estiment les jésuites, « c’est la confusion qui a pris le dessus, ouvrantla voie à la violence ». « Nous observons en ce moment des tentatives visant à fomenter des troubles et une guerre confessionnelle qui mèneraient à l’effritement de notre société », affirment-ils.

Ils déplorent aussi des « événements sanglants dont l’intensité, la dureté et la violence augmentent de semaine en semaine, et qui font des victimes innocentes ». Face à cela, « nous ne pouvons que pousser un cri d’appel à laconscience de nos concitoyens, quelle que soit leur appartenance ».

Tout en rappelant l’importance de « la liberté d’expression » et de « la liberté d’opinion », ils rappellent que « la véritable paix nationale ne peut pas se construire par le rejet d’une partie de la populationcontre une autre ; elle suppose tout au contraire unevéritablevie en commun ».

Pour dépasser cette « situation douloureuse » et « aboutirà une tentative de dialogue sincèreentre toutes les parties », les Jésuites en Syrie invitent à la confiance et à l’écoute. Ils invitent néanmoins à ne pas se laisser entraîner « par différents canaux d’informations tendancieuses ». « Le chrétien adulte est un acteur efficace dans la constitution d’une opinion publique modérée, condition essentielle pour une réforme réussie », affirment-ils.

Avec force, ils invitent toutes les parties « à rejeter la violence ». « Nous implorons les Syriens de tous bords de se mobiliser sans tarder pour construire un dialogue national sincère en vue d’une issue à cette crise ».

« Nous refusons – affirment-il enfin – d’entrer dans le cercle vicieux qui engendre la peur de l’autre et étouffe toutes les bonnes intentions qui cherchent à édifier la patrie ». « Chaque croyant doit purifier son cœur du mépris et de la haine ainsi que de la peur qui justifierait pour lui l’appel à l’usage de la violence ». Il doit être « un élément efficace dans la réalisation de l’unité nationale ».

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