ASIA/IRAQ - Priest who gambled funds for refugees has been suspended

Monday, 4 April 2016 corruption  


Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - Chaldean priest Amer Saka, who claimed he had gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Iraq, has been temporarily suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry and his story has been brought to the attention of the civil authorities by the Chaldean eparchy of Mar Adday in Toronto, to which the pastoral care of the Chaldean Christians present in Canadian territory is entrusted.
In a statement released by patriarchal official channels and sent to Agenzia Fides, the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans spoke about the case which is causing pain to the Chaldean community in Canada, highlighting the timeliness of the measures also taken at an ecclesiastical level. A single case - said the patriarchal statement - can not be taken as a pretext to accuse all priests indistinctly.
It was the same priest who allegedly told his bishop Emanuel Shaleta that as much as $500,000 meant for refugees coming to Canada had disappeared.
The patriarchal statement, makes reference to human fragility, and recognizes that the priest acknowledged his mistake and expressed the hope that no one may take the story as a pretext to defame the Chaldean Church as a whole. Confidence is expressed in the investigation undertaken regarding the case by the Canadian judiciary, and highlights the need - repeatedly stressed by Patriarch Louis Raphael I - to find adequate ways to handle the permanent formation of the clergy and follow their spiritual and pastoral growth in all dioceses.
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I had already addressed a letter to Chaldean priests in July 2013 in which he acknowledged that the weakness in the exercise of the central authority, the vacatio of many episcopal sees, the lack of security and the perpetual emergency socio-political lived by Iraq had had "effects on the identity of priests and their spirituality", creating a "situation that cannot continue" and that must be addressed in a decisive manner, rediscovering the source of grace and the true face of the vocation and priestly mission. In that letter (see Fides 08/07/2013), the Primate of the Chaldean Church had also referred to the cases of priests who "do not preach or, when they do, transform their homilies in insults or money requests". Priesthood "is a mission, not a profession or a business", said the Patriarch in the message. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 04/04/2016)