Bishops appointed for Chaldean Church in Sydney, Toronto, Baghdad

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By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis named new bishops for Chaldean Catholics in Sydney and Toronto and confirmed the election of a Chaldean priest, who is currently ministering in Detroit, Michigan, to be a new auxiliary bishop in Baghdad.
Accepting the resignation of 76-year-old Archbishop Djibrail Kassab, the pope appointed Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul, Iraq, to head the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Sydney — the Chaldean diocese serving Australia and New Zealand.

The Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit was losing two Chaldean clergy with the latest appointments: Chorbishop Emmanuel Challita, 58, was named the new bishop of the Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto; and Father Basel Yaldo, 44, was elected by the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church to be an auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Baghdad, Iraq. The pope formally gave his assent to Father Yaldo’s election the same day the Vatican made the announcements Jan. 15.

Archbishop Nona, 47, was born in Alqosh, Iraq. He was ordained a priest in 1991, serving in Alqosh until 2000. After getting his degree in theology at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, he returned to Alqosh as a parish priest and taught anthropology at the Pontifical Babel College.

Archbishop Nona was one of thousands of Catholics forcibly expelled from Mosul after Islamic State militants took control of Iraq’s second-largest city in June. He has been ministering to his displaced flock in surrounding villages, where they have been living in tents, trailers and abandoned buildings that often lack basic services like plumbing and heat.

Archbishop Nona led the Archdiocese of Mosul since his installation in 2010 as successor to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who died in 2008 after he was taken hostage by kidnappers.

Archbishop Nona now succeeds Archbishop Kassab, who led the eparchy in Sydney since 2006 — the year he was transferred out of Basra in southern Iraq due to increased violence there against Christians.

Born in Telkaif, the now retired archbishop had led the archeparchy of Basra, Iraq, since the mid-1990s and was strongly outspoken against the U.S. military intervention of Iraq and the ensuing violence. He was unharmed when a piece of shrapnel from a U.S. missile landed at the foot of his bed in 2003.

Bishop-designate Challita, who was born in Zakho in 1956, studied at a Dominican seminary in Mosul and was ordained a priest by St. John Paul II in 1984 in Rome.

After receiving degrees in philosophy, theology and biblical theology at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, he began his ministry in 1987 for the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, serving in California and Michigan.

Bishop-elect Yaldo was born in Telkaif in 1970. He studied in Baghdad and the Pontifical Urbanian University where he received his degrees in theology in 2001, dogmatic theology in 2003 and a doctorate in 2013.

He was ordained a priest in Baghdad in 2002 and served as vice rector of the Chaldean major seminary in Baghdad, a professor of dogmatic theology at Babel College, parish priest in Baghdad and secretary to the late Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, Chaldean patriarch.

Bishop-elect Yaldo was kidnapped for three days and badly beaten by his captors in September 2006, just after Pope Benedict’s controversial remarks about Islam in Regensburg, Germany, inflamed parts of the Muslim world. Death threats against the priest had been so serious that he was transferred in 2007 from Baghdad to the parish of St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Michigan.