Former Assyrian bishop assigned to Chaldean Catholic Church
About 1,000 people packed into a church hall in El Cajon on Tuesday night to celebrate Pope Francis’ historic assignment of a former Assyrian bishop to the Chaldean Catholic Church.
“The grace really overwhelms,” Bishop Bawai Soro said shortly before the reception at St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral. “I’m still processing what it means for me to be joining the colleagues in the church. It’s a unique experience.”
The appointment was the culmination of about eight years of effort, and it was not without controversy. Soro joined the Roman Catholic fold — which includes the Chaldean church — after breaking from the Assyrian Church of the East, for which he served as a bishop in San Jose. Religious leaders of the Assyrian community there sued Soro, claiming that he had illegally taken over a church building and other property while trying to convert the congregation to Catholicism.
Soro lost the three-year-long suit and moved to San Diego, where he was taken in by the Most Rev. Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, head of the western U.S. Diocese for Chaldean Catholics.
While Soro said he was following his faith, others in San Jose accused him of embezzlement and misconduct. At least one person continued the accusations this week on a religious blog following the announcement of his papal appointment.
But on Tuesday, Soro’s new status was cause for celebration in El Cajon, where a large number of Iraqi immigrants of Chaldean Catholic faith live. From 40,000 to more than 50,000 Chaldeans live in the city and surrounding communities.
A well-dressed crowd of men, women and children squeezed into the church hall to hear Jammo speak about the appointment during a three-hour reception. For them, the message was about religious unity.
“From the Chaldean community, we are completely rejoicing and so thankful,” said Mark Arabo, a leader of the Iraqi community in El Cajon and president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association….