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Keeper of Iraq’s Past and Caretaker of Iraq’s Christian Future Passes
By Rita Abro :: Monday, August 02, 2010 :: 14150 Views :: Chaldean Churches

Baghdad, IRAQ – Chaldean Bishop Andreas Abouna of Iraq died this past Tuesday, July 27th, 2010.  The 67 year old Bishop suffered from ongoing kidney complications and passed in an Erbil hospital located in northern Iraq.  Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, presided at Bishop Abouna’s funeral at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Ankawa, near Erbil.

The ailing Bishop was known for his peaceful calls, optimism, and concern for the youth of Iraq.  Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil described him as a pastor who was “always smiling, even in very difficult situations”.  Amid his increasing health problems, Bishop Abouna remained in war-torn Baghdad.  Without care for his own well-being the Bishop often held youth events and activities.  He counseled young Iraqis of all faiths as increasing horrific violence pervaded their daily lives.  The bishop also responded to a shortage of priests by serving at the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, in the one of Iraq’s most dangerous city’s in the Al Mansour district.

Bishop Abouna was born on March 23, 1943 in the village of Bedar, outside the northern Iraqi town of Zakho.  At the age of 14, he joined St Peter’s Seminary, then based in the northern city of Mosul, and was ordained a priest for the Chaldean Catholic Church on June 5, 1966.

He was a parish priest in the diocese of Basra in southern Iraq from 1967 and four years later he was appointed parish priest of St Joseph the Worker’s Church, Baghdad, where he served for 20 years.  In 1989 he became personal secretary to Chaldean Catholic leader Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid of Baghdad.

In the early 90’s Abouna was then assigned to the town of Ealing in West London to care for the Chaldean Catholic Mission in England.  For eleven years he served in England and on November 11th, 2002 he was elected and named the Auxiliary Bishop of Bahdad and returned back to Iraq for service.  Shortly thereafter, Pope John Paul II ordained the Bishop to the episcopate in Rome. 

During the fall of Saddam Hussein Iraqi Christians fell victim to extreme violence and were among the worst to suffer.  Bishop Abouna sought to help the Iraqi people with consistent calls for peace and personally helped victims providing food, shelter, and at times sanctuary.  In the face of insurgent activity the Bishop was often threatened and his work targeted for attacks, including bomb attacks on churches and threats of violence against both Christian and non-Christian Iraqi people.
 
Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said: “Bishop Abouna was a very good and humble man, very open-minded. He really took care of each one of his priests and he always worked for the unity of the Church. I hope he can pray for us from heaven.”

Known as the keeper of Iraq’s past and caretaker of Iraq’s Christian future the Bishop had great concern for the priests and seminarians he was in charge of guiding.  Bishop Abouna’s led the effort to relocate St Peter’s Seminary away from Baghdad where the situation had become dangerous and dire.  The college housed centuries upon centuries of Iraqi history, reaching as far back as to the days of the Old Testament and were at immediate risk of being lost forever. 

Weeks prior to his passing flowers in the garden of Christian faith in Iraq were blooming.   Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, describes the ordination of two new priests held on July 16, in the cathedral of his diocese. It can be said that July saw a real flowering of priestly ordinations which have infused new life into the Christian community, prostrated by continuing sectarian violence and the political instability that plagues Iraq.

Together with the two priests, four permanent deacons were ordained today. Before them, on July 9, it was the turn of another priest consecrated July 9 in Dohok, in the north, while a fourth priest will be ordained on July 23 in Karamless in the diocese of Mosul. Even the Syro-Catholic Church of Bartella and Karakosh were gifted with new priests this month.

"It 's a sign of vitality and hope to see these young people consecrated to the Lord and to the service of their brothers living in great suffering, in this time of tribulation and darkness," said Msgr. Sako.

The mass celebrated by Msgr. Sako, was attended by many faithful, united in prayer and joy, "so that these new priests may bring the message of God who is love and peace to all without distinction" the prelate said. In his homily, the Archbishop reminded the new priests to live the gift of God as Mary did, as a personal relationship that changed her life: "Like Her, we must 'keep all these things, reflecting on them in our heart' (Lk 2 19:51). Prayer is a true shield of protection, provided that it is done in humility. Mary said, 'I am the handmaid of the Lord', we too are servants of the Lord. Prayer is the distinctive characteristic that allows people to see Christ in our apostolate".

Husam Hamammi says, “We mourn the passing of an Iraqi champion of Christian faith who taught us that true Christians are called to serve the needs of others.  He has now gone to heaven to look over all of us.  He was at peace.  Seeing new priests and deacons being ordained gave him great rest and hope for Iraq.”

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.