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Australia Denies Visas to Iraqi Chaldean WYD Pilgrims
By Rita Abro :: Monday, July 14, 2008 :: 82894 Views :: Religion & Spirituality, Community & Culture, Government & Society, Chaldean Churches

The Catholic News Agency reports that the Australian government has denied visas to dozens of Chaldean World Youth Day pilgrims from Iraq.  Australian officials say they are concerned that participants will not return home and instead will seek asylum in Australia. One Chaldean Catholic priest called the decision “a slap at young people who wanted to go to witness to the faith and the joy of the church’s living in Iraq despite sufferings.”

Initially the Australian government denied visas for nearly 170 pilgrims, allowing only ten visas to aspiring World Youth Day participants, the SIR News Agency says. According to the website Baghdadhope, there are now only about 30 total visas available that will be granted “in extremis.”

Father Rayan P. Atto, parish priest of Mar Qardagh Church in Erbil, told SIR News Agency that the concerns about asylum seekers were unfounded, arguing that, “for young Christian Iraqis, taking part in the WYD in Sydney was not a way to leave their country.”

“Most of the group members come from northern Iraq, a quiet area,” he continued. “They have no reason to escape and they would certainly not do it on an occasion related to faith.”

Before it was reported that 30 visas would be available for pilgrims, Father Atto said the Australian Embassy in Amman, Jordan had approved only ten visas. “How can one reduce a group of almost 170 people down to just ten?” he asked.

The news of the 30 total visas did not satisfy Bishop Philip Najim, Chaldean Procurator to the Holy See.

“This is a real scandal, a slap at young people who wanted to go to witness to the faith and the joy of the church’s living in Iraq despite sufferings,” Bishop Najim said, speaking to MISNA news agency. “The dream of young Iraqis to participate in World Youth Day in Sydney shatters against the wall of mistrust and of bureaucracy, after the Australian embassy in Amman completely denied the visas in the beginning and then, today, granted 30 entry visas to the country… just 30, of which 12 are for religious and only 18 for young boys and girls, on a list of 170 people delivered since last year."

"What makes the refusal bitter is their inference that young people could take advantage of this opportunity to remain as applicants for asylum. According to them there would be no sufficient guarantees that they will return home,” the monsignor continued.

“The refusal of the entry visas to the young Iraqis who wished to attend the World Youth Day makes us very sad,” said Chaldean Bishop Jibrail Kassab of the Eparchy of Oceania and New Zealand.

“It would have been a great opportunity for sharing faith,” the bishop told SIR, “which would have been beneficial to so many young people, and not only Iraqis. Unfortunately, presumably political reasons prevented this.”

The Australian Embassy said that political, not economic reasons motivated their decision. The embassy said that in most cases the documents concerning the employment and financial situation of the pilgrims are missing.

However, the embassy had reportedly been informed that the Church would guarantee the visa applicants’ expenses.

According to Baghdadhope, the Iraqi World Youth Day delegation of 30 will include ten priests. The Most Rev. Mikha P. Maqdassi, the Chaldean Bishop of Al Qosh, will also be part of the delegation along with a nun, ten young people active in parish youth groups, and eight people designated to carry the cross in Sydney.

About 700 Iraqi emigrants living in Australia, the United States, and Europe will reportedly attend World Youth Day in Sydney next week.

Mar Addai Church, MI USA

Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church
24010 Coolidge Hwy.
Oak Park, MI 48237
Tel: (248) 547-4648
Fax: (248) 399-9089

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Founding Pastor:
Rev. Stephen Kallabat

Current Pastor:
Rev. Stephan Kallabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Fadi Habib Khalaf

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Sulemina Denha
 


 

Rev. Stephen Kallabat


Fr. Stephan Kallabat was born in Telkaif, Iraq.  After completing seven years of scholarly work for the priesthood in Mosul, Iraq Fr. Kallabat was accepted at the prestigious university in Rome.  There he spent six additional years of scholarly work in the areas of philosophy and theology and an additional four years in scriptural studies. 

Ordained a priest in 1966 by Pope Paul VI he returned to Iraq to serve the Holy Family parish until his departure to Michigan, U.S. in 1979 to serve the growing population of Chaldeans.  Fr. Kallabat was appointed assistant pastor, then pastor of Mar Addai Parish in Oak Park, Michigan. 

Hitting the ground running, Fr. Kallabat is credited with raising the necessary funds to provide Chaldeans in the local area a church and community center of their own.  Fr. Kallabat continues to serve the parish and Chaldean community as their pastor.   

Rev. Fadi Habib Khalaf

Fr. Fadi Habib Khalaf was born in Baghdad May 10, 1974.  Fr. Khalaf graduated from Baghdad University in 1997 and soon after joined the Chaldean seminary in Baghdad.  While there Fr. Khalaf earned a scholarship to attend the Urbanian Pontifical University in Rome.  There he earned another bachelor’s degree in theology and was ordained deacon in Rome on May 8, 2004. 

Fr. Khalaf then returned to Baghdad where he was officially ordained as a priest.  Afterward Fr. Khalaf returned to Rome to further his studies.  In 2006 Fr. Khalaf was appointed to serve Chaldeans in the United States.  

In the summer of 2006 he arrived to the Chaldean diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle and was cardinated into the Diocese and elected to serve at Mar Addai parish on March 15, 2007 as the Parochial Vicar.

Rev. Suleiman Denha

Rev. Suleiman Denha was born in Telkaif, Iraq.  He began his priestly studies in 1951 in Mosul, Iraq and was ordained in 1959.  Fr. Denha taught in Telkaif until 1961, when he was appointed pastor in Basra, Iraq in 1966. 

After immigrating to the Unite States in 1979, he was appointed to serve the Chaldean community in Virginia.  A year later, Fr. Denha was recruited to assist the much larger population of Chaldeans in Detroit. 

Upon his arrival Fr. Denha assisted Fr. Yasso at Sacred Heart Church.  In 1982 he was asked to temporally assist St. Joseph Church in Troy, returning a year later Sacred Heart. 

In 1991, he was appointed to Mar Addai Church in Oak Park, Michigan as the Parochial Vicar, where he still serves the community today.