Iraqi-born L.A. priest to head U.S. Syrian Catholic Church

An Iraqi-born priest in Los Angeles has been named to head the Syrian Catholic Church in the United States, a small Eastern Rite sect affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Chorbishop Yousif Habash of Sacred Heart Syriac Catholic Church in North Hollywood as bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance in Newark N.J. He succeeds Bishop Joseph Younan, who was appointed in January as patriarch of the church, which is based in Beirut, Lebanon.

As bishop of the U.S. eparchy, Habash will oversee the affairs of 13,800 Syrian Catholics, according to the announcement. A chorbishop is a sort of auxiliary bishop and an eparchy is like a Catholic diocese.

Habash, a native of the northern Iraqi region centered in Mosul, drew attention last month when he complained about the plight of Iraqi Christians and said their situation now is worse than before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

In prewar Mosul, “there were not the rivers of blood like today,” he said in an interview published in the Tidings, the newspaper of the Los Angeles Catholic archdiocese. “Christians were not dying like insects.” His remarks followed the violent deaths of eight Christians in Mosul during a two-week period in February. The pope also spoke out about the killings.