Detroit-area Chaldean Catholics rejoice as patriarch is made cardinal

By Robert Delaney /Catholic News Service
DETROIT (CNS) — Detroit-area Chaldean Catholics expressed pride that Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, 80, is the first Chaldean patriarch in history to be in the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church.

About 150 Chaldeans from the Detroit area traveled to Rome for the Nov. 24 consistory.

“I see it, first, as an appreciation of the service he is rendering in Iraq, but also a recognition of all the people of Iraq, and especially the Christians of Iraq,” said Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim of the Southfield-based Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, prior to leaving for Rome.

“The Christians of Iraq are struggling to keep their faith, and even though he will have no right to vote (in papal elections because he is 80 years old), this is still a great honor for him and all Chaldeans,” Bishop Ibrahim added.

The Michigan eparchy is the diocese for Chaldean Catholics in the eastern United States; they number approximately 100,000 and most of them live in southeastern Michigan. Chaldean Catholics in the western U.S. are in the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego, headed by Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo.

Bishop Ibrahim praised Cardinal Delly — who became patriarch of the Baghdad, Iraq-based Chaldean Catholic Church when he was elected by a synod of Chaldean bishops meeting in Rome in December 2003 — for staying in Baghdad despite the ongoing violence in Iraq. “He’s said, ‘If I leave, I have to be the last to leave,'” Bishop Ibrahim said.

The Chaldean Catholic Church has been in union with Rome since the 16th century, when some of the bishops of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East broke away and acknowledged the pope’s authority.

Many of Cardinal Delly’s flock — variously estimated at 800,000 to 1 million worldwide — have been fleeing their homeland, however, not only to escape the larger war but also Muslim intolerance in some parts of the country.

Joseph Kassab, president of the Chaldean Federation of America and a member of Mother of God Chaldean Parish in Southfield, said Chaldeans are “very, very happy and elated” by the appointment.

“We are all really pleased to see someone of our heritage being elevated to such a position,” said Kassab, who was among those who went to Rome for the ceremony.

The trip also gave him a chance to see his brother, Archbishop Djibrail Kassab, former archbishop of Basra, Iraq, and now the Sydney-based archbishop for all Chaldeans in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and other South Seas nations).

Father Manuel Boji, rector of Our Lady of Chaldeans Cathedral of Mother of God Parish, pointed out that being patriarch is actually a higher position than being a cardinal, but said being named a cardinal is a worthy honor for a deserving man.

“It means a lot to us, and the support of the Holy Father for the Christians of Iraq means a lot to us,” he told The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Latin-rite Detroit Archdiocese.

Father Boji called Cardinal Delly “a very simple person — a man of faith, who during all his service to the church and its people has never sought the spotlight.”

Danial Elias Jaddou and Cardinal Delly go way back together — to grade school days in Tel Kaif, Iraq. “We were together until we passed the fifth grade, then he started seminary in Mosul in 1940,” recalled Jaddou, who now lives in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

“I remember he was the smart one in school — very active and very smart,” said Jaddou, a member of St. Joseph Chaldean Parish in the Detroit suburb of Troy.

Jaddou, 80, added that seminary officials in Mosul were so impressed with the future patriarch that they sent him to study in Rome.

“When he was ordained, his first Mass was broadcast on Vatican Radio, and we all listened to it back home,” Jaddou said.

And even though the future patriarch’s talents were such that he was made a bishop at 36, he has always remained quite humble, his longtime friend said.