Tale of Two Chaldean Priests

  • Written by:

Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, M.D.
Over the past few months, many radio, television, and newspaper media have published stories regarding some Chaldean Catholic priests and their diocese in San Diego. Unfortunately, many of these contained mischaracterized, misinformed, and illogical conclusions about their safety, mission, and manner in which they arrived to the United States.
It is true that the previous Patriarch’s administration was weakened by internal and external events, and many local Iraqi priests and bishops took advantage of that by seeking comfortable positions for safety, prosperity, and personal reasons. But in the past two years since the installment of His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Sako, a movement of correction, reconciliation, and preservation of the Chaldean Catholic Church from a downhill spiral has taken place by re-claiming the old rules and regulations that every member of the church should follow, least of all the priests and bishops. To this end, a new group of young, well-educated bishops has been elected to the Synod.

The community at large has welcomed these changes. But unfortunately, a renegade and mutiny of a bishop and some priests in San Diego has developed, especially among those priests who left their positions in Iraq without prior authorization or in disobedience to the hierarchy of their churches, monasteries, and eparchies.

Today, there is a tale of two priests in the Chaldean Catholic Church. One Chaldean priest was kidnapped for three days in Iraq, beaten by his captors, and received death threats even after he was released during those dark days of anti-Christian violence that took place after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This priest was officially transferred at that time to serve his community in the United States. But today, he has been elected an Auxiliary Bishop and has returned to Baghdad. He accepted this elevation without reluctance, leaving his comfort zone, church followers, and friends in America with the belief that a priest must serve wherever he is required irrespective of the dangers he faces or the comfort in which he lives. He did this with the view that he is not better than any priest, particularly those serving in Iraq, where their services are badly needed at this time. He is well aware of the change of political and social environment there, but, as a priest, his job is to serve wherever he is required and needed.

Compare his story to that priest in San Diego, who is afraid to return home to Iraq under the assumption that he will be kidnapped and killed. That has been his pretext. Instead of being an obedient steward of the image, culture, and sanctuary of his priesthood, he turned his venom against Patriarch Sako, his superiors, and others. He has forgotten that the Chaldean Catholic Church is a martyrs’ church and that many of his friends, superiors, and others have sacrificed themselves for the cause of Christianity and the church.

This tale of two priests is one of revolt or obedience, one of self-sacrifice or self-preservation, and one of serving the community or serving oneself. Regrettably, there are those who are trying to keep these priests in San Diego at any cost. They have never stopped making it an issue and projecting it in the San Diego and California media. As a result, they have damaged–even temporarily–the image of our beloved and blessed Chaldean Church that, for thousands of years, had the sacrifice of her patriarchs, bishops, priests, and Christian followers.

In final analysis, we are looking forward to priests who have devoted themselves to the vocation, whether in the Chaldean Catholic Church or elsewhere–to deprive themselves of selfishness and fear and follow the teachings of the church and Jesus Christ and His ministry in this world. We hope that what happened in San Diego is a storm in a teacup and that sooner rather than later, with the help and guidance of Patriarch Sako, the Synod and the goodwill of the faithful will prevail.

Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, M.D.
President, American Middle East Christians Congress
Director, Iraq American Christians Endowment Center
www.middleeastchristian.org or www.amecc.us
Office: (248) 546-9100
Cell: (248) 763-6006