US Army returns college in Baghdad to Chaldean Catholic Church

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The U.S. Army has returned the Pontifical Babel College for Philosophy and Theology in Baghdad to the Chaldean Catholic Church, promising to repair or replace anything damaged while U.S. soldiers occupied the buildings, Vatican Radio reported.

The seminarians, students and staff left the complex in January 2007, temporarily moving the college programs to northern Iraq because the students and staff were not safe in the college’s neighborhood in Baghdad.

Three months later, the U.S. Army occupied the buildings as a “combat outpost”; the college was occupied first by the 4th Cavalry Squadron of the First Mechanized Infantry Division, and then by the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.

In a Nov. 14 report, Vatican Radio quoted Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Jacques Ishaq of Baghdad, rector of the college, as saying the Army transferred the property back to the church Nov. 6.

“The Americans decided to leave the buildings and have signed an agreement to restore the damaged parts and replace what was destroyed,” including classroom furnishings, he said.

The library suffered no damaged, he said, because the Army sealed it when they took over the buildings.

Bishop Ishaq also said Army chaplains held services for soldiers in the chapel, so it was preserved as the Army found it.

He said it would take Army engineers a couple months to finish restoring the complex.