Detroit area Chaldean priests ordained bishops in Iraq

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Mark Hicks, The Detroit News
(Photo: Photo courtesy St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese)
Pope Francis is elevating to bishops two Chaldean priests with years of service in Metro Detroit.
Ordinations for Chorbishop Emanuel Shaleta and the Rev. Basel Yaldo, both active with the Southfield-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, were held Friday in Iraq, church officials said.
Shaleta has been named the new bishop of the Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto. Yaldo was elected an auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Baghdad.

“We have been blessed to have these two servants of faith in our Diocese,” said Bishop Francis Kalabat, head of St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese, which is separate from the Archdiocese of Detroit but has allegiance to the Vatican. “We pray for them as they answer the call of God to serve the church with greater responsibility and as they lead the Chaldean faithful in Canada and in our homeland of Iraq plagued with so many problems.”

Born in 1970, Yaldo studied in Baghdad and the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he earned degrees in theology and dogmatic theology as well as a doctorate, church officials said.

Ordained a priest in 2002, he was vice rector of the Chaldean major seminary in Baghdad; a professor of dogmatic theology at Babel College; and a parish priest in Baghdad and secretary to the late patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, officials said.

In September 2006, Yaldo was kidnapped for three days and beaten, church officials said. Death threats became so serious, he was transferred in 2007 to St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Shelby Township.

“That experience brought me closer to God and strengthened my faith,” said Yaldo, who has also served at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield. “It also pushed me to be more serious and be more involved. Virgin Mary was the one who helped me when I was kidnapped and I’m sure she will help me in Iraq. … I am called to do the will of God and maybe this is what He really needs from me — to serve the people of Iraq.”

As an auxiliary bishop, Yaldo helps Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Church head, in his daily tasks, officials said. Duties include communicating between the patriarch and the dioceses worldwide.

Yaldo said his goal “is to give people hope and to keep their faith alive. Then we have to convince the Iraqi government to protect the Christians of Iraq.”

Born in 1956, Shaleta studied at a Dominican seminary in Mosul and was ordained a priest by Pope John Paul II in 1984 in Rome, officials said.

Earning degrees in philosophy, theology and biblical theology at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, he started his ministry in 1987 with the eparchy, serving in California and Michigan.

Shaleta has been pastor at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Shelby Township since its opening in 2005, officials said.

“Like any priest who has served a parish for a long time, you will miss the people around you,” he said in a statement. “I will for sure be busy in my new position but when I am alone, I will miss all the good people who served with me — the priests, the deacons, the choir and all the volunteers. They became my family. I, of course, will miss them greatly.”

The priests’ appointments are a major honor that reflects the church working to meet “the needs of the people,” said the Rev. Manuel Boji, vicar general of the eparchy. “It is very meaningful. It is a big service for the church.”