Diocese Celebrates Pope's Appointment of New Bishop to Erbil, Iraq
(24 May 2010) After almost five years without a bishop, the Chaldean priests and
faithful of Erbil, Northern Iraq, were celebrating today as Pope Benedict XVI appointed
Redemptorist Priest, Father Bashar Warda bishop of the Diocese.
All I thank God, for this new challenge in my life and in the life of so many friends
brothers and sisters here in the Church in Iraq and also in Ankawa”, says Fr Warda
speaking shortly after his appointment was announced. “I have realised that the call
is demanding in a way, because the Church in Iraq is facing lots of challenges in
Father Bashar Warda, was born in Baghdad in 1969. In 1981
he entered the minor seminary and later the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary of St. Peter
at Dora, near Baghdad. In 1994, following a visit to Iraq of the then Redemptorists'
Superior General, Father Juan Lasso de la Vega, Father Bashar decided to enter the
Congregation. of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), completing his novitiate
studies and religious education in Dundalk in Ireland.
In 1999 he obtained
a doctorate in moral theology at the Catholic University of Louvain and September
15, 2001 he made his perpetual vows. In 2001 he was appointed Director of the Cultural
Centre of Babel College (Erbil, Iraq), of which is also General Secretary and Lecturer.
until his appointment as bishop he held the post of Director of the Chaldean Patriarchal
Seminary in Ankawa, Erbil and professor of moral theology of the local Institute of
The diocese, which had been without a bishop since 2005,
is in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Since the outbreak of war in Iraq it
has become the place of refuge for thousands of persecuted Christians from the south.
“The diocese in 2005 was a diocese of almost 2,500 families. Today it is
one of the biggest Christian communities gathered in one place throughout Iraq”, explains
the newly appointed bishop. “In the city of Ankawa alone you have 7,200 Christian
families, half of them from Mosul and Baghdad. A process of reconciliation to the
new situation and culture is needed, not just for those who have found refuge here
but also for the original community, which has had to face rapid change over a very
short period. We need not just to maintain our Christianity here, but also to be
missionary in our environment”.
This call to mission, he adds is essential
to stem the tide of young Iraqi Christians leaving the country. “I think if we think
of the social message of the Church, I really believe that the Church could do a lot
in the social context, healthcare and education for example, and not just for Iraqi
Christians but also for the wider Iraqi community. The people need to see honest,
active, caring people committed to the future of the country. This is part of the
message of the Church and I believe the Church has an essential part to play in this.
There is no point in telling our young people to come home, unless we have something
concrete to offer them, something in which they can actively take part. And what
better place to start than in the diocese that enjoys at least, a very secure status
compared to other diocese, to encourage our young people, to tell them there are places
for you to work and be active in your community”.
Fr. Rayan Attos is a parish
priest of Mar Qardakh Church in the diocese of Erbil, and lecturer at Babel College,
he says that Pope Benedict’s appointment of the new bishop is another example of the
Spirit working for the future of his Church and his country; “I was not very sure
of my future as a young priest who was studying and teaching at the same time, working
in the parish without a bishop for five years, it was very hard to see a way forward,
particularly given the difficult situation that we are living in the Church in Erbil
and throughout Iraq. This was a sign of hope for me, and really the power of the
Spirit which we celebrated yesterday. In this year dedicated to priests I thank God
and the Holy Father from the bottom of my heart, I now see a future and this is important”.