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                Sep14, 2007 



By Baghdadhope

The apostolic journey of Mgr. Philip Najim, Procurator of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See and Apostolic Visitor in Europe, will start on Sunday, 16 of September. The journey will begin in Germany and will proceede to Denmark, Norway and Sweden.


We asked Mgr. Najim about his busy agenda.

 “The apostolic visit will start from Germany where, on next Sunday, during two celebrations in the cities of Essen and Mönchengladbach, I will officially introduce to the two communities their new priest, Father Sami Al-Rais.”  

Is the Chaldean community in Germany a big one?

“Yes. Only considering the cities of Essen and Mönchengladbach we are speaking about 450 families.”

Has Father Sami Al-Rais, the new priest, been living in Germany for a long time?

 “No, he has just arrived there. Father Sami is one of the priests who were kidnapped in Iraq last year (he was kidnapped on the 4 of December and released after 6 days, editor’s note) and for security reasons he has been living in the north of Iraq since his release. The same area where the Senior Chaldean seminary Fr. Sami was the director of when he was kidnapped was transferred in January 2007.”

It will be a happy occasion for him and the whole community…   

“Certainly. The faithfuls need a priest to refer to and they are looking forward his arrival.”

But your journey will not stop in Germany..

 “No, the duty of the Apostolic Visitor in Europe is to meet the communities to listen to their needs, to make them feel that even in a foreign  land, and may times not for their choice, they can count on the unifying and consolatory presence of the Church. Once in Germany I will also officialy deliver to the Diocese of München the letter of introduction for the admittance of a seminarist, the second, who will study in that city.

From Germany I will go to Denmark where about 400 Chaldean families live and where I will meet their priest, Father Faris Toma  and the Catholic Bishop, Mgr. Czeslaw Kozon. From Denmark I will go to Sweden, a country that, considering the high number of Chaldean faithfuls, about 20.000 persons, has been divided into three centers.”      

And you will visit all the three…

 “Sure. From the south of Sweden, where I will visit the new Chaldean center with the priest, Father Samir Dawood, to Sodertalje, where most Chaldeans live and where the priest is Father Maher Malko, to  Eskilstuna where I will meet Father Paul Rabban and his community. It will be also an occasion to meet the youth, our future, to understand the problems of their age, of their living far from their mother country. I consider these meetings with the youth of fundamental importance.


A very busy agenda…

“Yes. Besides the communities I will meet the Catholic Bishop of Stockholm, Mrg. Anders Arborelius, who is really helping our people there, and I will visit the about 100 Chaldean families living in Norway who still don’t have a priest and for whom I will celebrate the Holy Mass”  

Most Chaldean faithfuls coming from Iraq live in Sweden, what’s their situation there?

“Emigration to Sweden is not recent. Sweden has always been ready to welcome people who, leaving back situations of disadvantage or danger, wanted to start a new life. So it was for many Chaldean families who in the past decades fled dictatorship, wars and embargo and who are now integrated in the social tissue of the country. The war of 2003 and the terrible episodes of violence that followed it accelerated this flight. That’s because I talked about the no-choice situation of many emigrants, but of their being forced to flee to what no one denies is going on in Iraq: the persecution of Christians. It’s clear that for these people who dreamed a different future, and who found themselves in the uncomfortable position to become refugees, reality is particularly hard and for this reason they need not only material help but moral comfort too.”    

What about the other European countries?

“There are countries where the communities have been living since decades ago, and others where there are not. A part from the already mentioned countries there are Chaldean communities in France, Holland, Austria, Greece, Belgium, Great Britain and Georgia. In Georgia, for example, with the help of the Mar Toma Chaldean Diocese for the Eeastern  States of USA guided by Mgr. Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, we are building the first Chaldean church in Caucasus, a hall for the people and the rectory for the parish priest, Father Benni Bet-Yadkar, the first Chaldean priest in the country in twelve years”    

And what about Italy?

“ The presence of Chaldean faithfuls in Italy is limited to few families and to the priests, the nuns and the monks who live in Rome for studying or working. It’s the case of the Chaldean Nuns and Monks who have a convent and a nunnery there, of the seminarists and priests coming from Iraq to study  -two of them arrived just a month ago – and mine who work in Rome representing the Chaldean Patriarchate to the Holy See.”

So, there is not a Chaldean church in Italy …

“No, for our celebrations we use Santa Maria degli Angeli Church in Rome. Obviously every Chaldean faithful who lives where there is not a Chaldean church or a Chaldean priest to refer to, can continue his/her life of faith in the Catholic churches, in Italy and all over the world.”  

Are there Chaldean churches in Europe?

“Talking about churches of the Chaldean rite, that is an Eastern Catholic Rite, there are three of them. One in Paris, one in Sarcelles, in the suburbs of the French capital, and one in Marseille. There are also Roman Catholic churches where our rite is celebrated. In Lyon, Wien, and the countries I mentioned before. With a growing number of faithfuls in Europe we are trying to build new churches. In Sweden, for example, we are buying a land just for this. In Germany the Archbishopric of München gave to the Chaldean Mission a three-storey building that is now being renovated, that will be ready in 2008 and where there will be also some rooms for the catechism. It is very important for the Chaldeans born in Germany or the youngs who are arriving not to forget their Chaldean Catholic religious roots.”     

A lively presence in the European Catholicism…

“Yes, lively and beautiful. Last summer I visited the Chaldean communities in Holland and Belgium. On the 15 of August, the Assumption Feast, I celebrated with Father Firas Ghazi the Holy Mass in the Belgian city of Banneux. There were more than 3000 people coming from Belgium, Holland, Germany and France. It was really a happy day.”    

After the Apostolic visit will you come back to Rome?

“Maybe for one day. As Secretary of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of Eastern Rites by the 15 of October I will be in Lebanon for its annual meeting. It will be an important occasion to take stock of the different situations of the Catholic faithfuls in the Middle East, and surely Iraq will have a relevant part in it.” 

We will be glad to have from you a report of this long Apostolic visit, but by now we wish you a good journey and great days of work.”

 “Thanks but I must confess that more than a job this journey is a blessing. To be near to the faithfuls is every time an occasion of joy and hope that our very ancient Church can survive the events and find love also in the hearts of future generations.”