By John Pontifex
TRIBUTES have been paid to Bishop Andreas Abouna of Iraq who died on Tuesday 27th of July after a lifetime of a ministry to a Church beset by war, oppression and increasing hardship.
Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Abouna of Baghdad died in hospital this morning in Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq.
He was 67 and had suffered from a kidney complaint.
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, presided at Bishop Abounaâ€™s funeral on Tuesday evening 27th of July at St Josephâ€™s Cathedral, Ankawa, near Erbil.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil described him as a pastor who was â€œalways smiling, even in very difficult situationsâ€.
Andreas Abouna was born on 23rd March 1943 in the village of Bedar, outside the northern Iraqi town of Zakho.
Aged 14, he joined St Peterâ€™s Seminary, then based in the northern city of Mosul, and was ordained a priest for the Chaldean Catholic Church on 5th June 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 Workerâ€™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.
(Bishop Andreas Abouna)
Nearly two years later he moved to Ealing, west London, where he became priest in charge of the Chaldean and Syrian-Catholic Mission in England, a role he fulfilled for 11 years.
On 11th November 2002 he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad and he returned to his native country the following year after being ordained to the episcopate in Rome by Pope John Paul II on 6th January 2003.
Within weeks of taking office, Saddam Hussein was overthrown and key parts of Iraq including Baghdad fell victim to extreme violence.
Christians were among the worst to suffer and Bishop Abouna helped his people in the face of insurgent activity including bomb attacks on churches and threats of violence against non-Muslims, incidents which sparked a mass exodus from the city.
Amid increasing health problems, Bishop Abouna stayed in Baghdad, holding youth events where security allowed.
He responded to a shortage of priests by serving at the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, in the cityâ€™s Al Mansour district.
Archbishop Warda said: â€œHe was a very close friend not just to me but to so many others. He was always smiling, even in very difficult situations.â€
Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said: â€œBishop 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.â€
Aid to the Church in Need, which had helped fund Bishop Abounaâ€™s health care, worked closely with him on projects including the relocation of St Peterâ€™s Seminary away from Baghdad where the situation had become unsafe.
ACN projects coordinator for Iraq, Marie-Ange Siebrecht said: â€œI had the pleasure to meet Bishop Abouna many times during my visits to northern Iraq.
â€œHe was a very spiritual person and had great concern for the priests and seminarians he was in charge of.
â€œEspecially in Baghdad he played a great role among the priests to try to show them that there is a future in their country.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Childâ€™s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.
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