I suppose this post won’t rank high on the list of important topics of the day. What with Brian Williams being shuffled off NBC.Why Williams ranks any importance beats me – but for me, this religion story should be a header. While a generation wrung their hands for not doing anything timely to stop the purge of Jews during the Nazi’s, I suggest that what is happening to the Christians throughout the world, and in the Middle East in particular is no less a genocide? So here we go with this little story that represents a moral dilemma worthy of giving thought.
Iraq once had an estimated 1.3 million Christians. That number is down to several hundred thousand, perhaps half of whom live in the relative safety of Baghdad. The patriarch and other Chaldean leaders are in Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan, which is protected by Kurdish forces and U.S. and coalition air power.Speaking in Aramaic, Father Noel Gorgis is preaching to parishioners of St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Church at a Saturday night Mass. In the United States.
Older parishioners are pleased that Gorgis celebrates Mass — and hears confessions — in Arabic and Aramaic, the ancient language of the Chaldean people. Younger parishioners appreciate Gorgis’ use of websites and live-streaming.
In his four years at St. Peter, the soft-spoken Gorgis, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has become a popular figure among the faithful, many of whom, like their priest, are immigrants from Iraq.
But the 48-year-old priest’s days at St. Peter may be dwindling. The violence that once forced him to flee his native land may now force him to return, to the dismay of parishioners.
The Chaldean patriarch, the Iraq-based church’s top official, has ordered Gorgis and several other priests to return to Iraq to stand beside the church in its hour of maximum peril. Islamic radicals are ravaging much of the country, destroying churches and killing Christians.
Since October, Patriarch Louis Sako has repeatedly said that Chaldean priests who did not seek church permission to leave must return to Iraq. To remain abroad is to put personal safety above the needs of the church and violate the sacred oath of a priest, Sako has told Aleteia, a Rome-based Catholic news agency.[…]
After serving in the army, he fled Iraq for Turkey at the time of the Gulf War. In 1992, he was admitted into the U.S. as a refugee and came to El Cajon. The Chaldean church helped support him.
The church sent to him to parishes in Chicago and Arizona and in 2002, to St. Paul Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church in North Hollywood. In 2011, he was assigned to El Cajon, where two Chaldean churches, St. Peter and St. Michael, minister to about 3,000 families.
When the U.S. moved in 2003 to depose Hussein, Gorgis was quick to call the move not an invasion but a liberation. “I am an American, 100 percent,” he said recently.
The Chaldean Catholic Church shares the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and considers itself “in full communion” with the Vatican. But for complex historical reasons, the governance of the Chaldean church is largely separate from Rome, and the relationship between the two is dotted with disputes over authority.