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Chaldean bishops order priests who fled Iraq to return home

Chaldean Catholics at a Mass in Scottsdale, Arizona (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Chaldean Catholic bishops have said that priests and monks who left their dioceses and monasteries in Iraq without formal permission to emigrate are “raising doubts among [the] faithful”.

A statement by 20 bishops urged these priests and monks to “leave their current dioceses [abroad] immediately”.

The statement also said the Chaldean Church would proceed with the cause for canonisation of Catholics martyred in Iraq since 2003, including Archbishop Faraj Rahho, Fr Ragheed Kani, four deacons and a nun.

The bishops, meeting for their annual synod, pleaded for peace in the Middle East and for the liberation of areas seized by the Islamic State group so that the displaced could return to their homes.

Chaldeans were among the approximately 120,000 Christians who were uprooted when the Islamic State seized Mosul and the Nineveh Plain in Iraq during the summer of 2014.

In the final statement issued at the conclusion of the September 22-27 synod, the 20 bishops from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the United States, Canada and Australia also expressed their solidarity with Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, one of the participants.

They called for officials to “stop the war in Syria and sit together in a constructive dialogue to find a peaceful political solution that preserves the country and the nation.”

They also urged clergy who had emigrated from Iraq without permission to return home. “We could accept them, on condition that one of the Chaldean bishops can accommodate them after a month or two of rehabilitation,” the statement continued. “Meanwhile, [those] priests should return to their bishops to regularise their status before commencing their pastoral mission.” They confirmed that Chaldean Fr Noel Gorgis, who had emigrated without permission, had been ordered to leave the Eparchy of St Peter the Apostle in San Diego.

The synod selected three candidates for bishop of the San Diego eparchy to be sent to Pope Francis. Bishop Shlemon Warduni has been serving as interim bishop of the eparchy since the retirement of Bishop Sarhad Jammo.