CHALDEANS IN EUROPE
THE APOSTOLIC VISIT OF MGR. PHILIP NAJIM
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.
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
Has Father Sami Al-Rais, the new priest, been living
in Germany for a long time?
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
“Certainly. The faithfuls need a
priest to refer to and they are looking forward his
But your journey will not stop in Germany..
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…
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
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”