Christian persecution, migrants to be highlighted by Eastern Catholic leaders in Newark

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Christian persecution, migrants to be highlighted by Eastern Catholic leaders in Newark
Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for By Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for
Ignatius Youssef III Younan.jpgIgnatius Youssef III Younan, the leader of the Syriac Catholic Church, is scheduled to visit Newark Monday to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

On the heels of a U.S. papal visit that focused heavily on the plight of migrants, leaders of an Eastern Rite branch of Catholicism will visit the Archdiocese of Newark Monday to highlight what they call the persecution and dire living conditions of Christians in the Middle East.

Ignatius Youssef III Younan — bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of world’s oldest Christian communities — will join with other religious leaders at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark for the afternoon event.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, said Younan is expected to address both the plight of Christians who remain in the Middle East and his concern for millions of refugees who have fled war or discrimination.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: New fears for Christians in Iraq

Younan, Goodness said, is expected to note that the continuing upheaval in Syria, Iraq and other nations coincides with the centennial of the Armenian genocide, in which an estimated 1.5 million Christian Armenians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

In recent months, a tide of migrants fleeing deep poverty and violence has convulsed European governments, raising broad questions about how to manage the crisis.

Pope Francis, before and during his six-day U.S. visit, has challenged governments to open their borders and to support those in need.
RELATED: Pope Francis urges U.S. to welcome immigrants

The Syriac Catholic Church is one of nearly two dozen Eastern Catholic churches under the authority of the Roman Catholic pope. In 2010, the church had an estimated 159,000 followers in the Middle East, India, the United States and Canada.

The only North American diocese, Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese, is based in Bayonne. Younan served as bishop of the diocese before Pope Benedict XIV elevated him in 2009 to his current position, titled Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

Joining Younan will be Archbishop Myers, the Syriac Catholic archbishop of Baghdad and the current bishop of the U.S. diocese.

In 2003, a Star-Ledger reporter and photographer chronicled the rise of Christian persecution in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, who offered them a measure of protection, if not religious freedom.

Mark Mueller may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MarkJMueller. Find on Facebook.

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Pope Francis rides through Central Park. New York, NY 9/25/15 (Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media for