Priest defies bishop’s order to return to ISIS-controlled Iraq

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Christian Today staff writer
(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
A Chaldean priest is disobeying his bishop’s order to return to ISIS-controlled Iraq because he fears for his life.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, instructed Father Noel Gorgis to return to the war-torn country to strengthen the church there. Father Gorgis refused.

The dispute over the priest’s assignment goes back at least several months, and Gorgis went public with his story late last year.

“I left Iraq over 20 years ago, and I left Iraq [during the] Gulf War, so I know what’s going on there,” told Fox 5 from El Cajon, California. “And now it’s worse. Way worse. To go back, it means suicide.”

Pope Francis intervened in early January, siding with Father Gorgis and other priests defying Bishop Sako’s order. In response, Sako said the priests will be excommunicated.

Chaldean leader Mark Arabo criticised the decision.

“There is a Christian genocide going on,” he explained.

“People are being slaughtered, raped, murdered because they’re Christian, or Catholic. Churches are being bombed, people are being beheaded. He can’t go back, he won’t go back and Pope Francis solidified it.

“The pope decides. Nobody else,” he continued. “So regardless of this denomination, that denomination, if you’re part of the Catholic Church, which Chaldeans are… the pope is our holy father. He decides.”

Under Sako’s order, 10 of the 14 Chaldean priests in the US are expected to return to Iraq. The number includes those who allegedly left Iraq without the church’s permission. Father Gorgis is a naturalised US citizen, but was born in Iraq.

“Chaldean priests are being forced to choose between disobedience and martyrdom,” he insisted.

The priests await Sako’s conclusions, but are standing firm in their decision to remain in the US.

“Father Noel isn’t cattle for the slaughter,” Arabo told Fox 5.

“He’s our priest and he needs to stay here for the Christians of our Chaldean diocese.”