A Bishop in Baghdad

This month we heard the news that Father Saad Sirop, the brother of Mrs Aida Aris and Mrs Maysoon Aziz, both from our 3 Churches, has been elected a Bishop. At 41 he is the fifth youngest Catholic Bishop in the world. Father Saad has visited us several times over the years, and some of us have watched his journey “from afar”. He has now been named Auxiliary Bishop to the Patriarch of Babylon in the Chaldean Church. This is one of the Eastern Rites of the Church, historically linked to the Syro-Malabar Rite, to which many of our Keralite members belong, including Fr Tomy, and Frs James and Modest before him. It has about 20 bishops, mainly across Iraq and neighbouring Syria, Iran and Lebanon, but also a few in countries where there are large numbers such as the USA.

The Patriarchate is based at Baghdad, where Fr Saad was born 6 September 1972. After studying at university he entered the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary. He finished his theological studies at Rome at the Pontifical Urbanian University, and on 13 October 2001 he was ordained priest.

After ordination he gained a Licence in Philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome. From 2005 to 2006 he was Parish Priest of St James in Baghdad, Director of Studies at Babel College, and Vice-Rector at the faculty of Philosophy and Theology. His work was cut short when he and colleagues were kidnapped, a tragedy which made the headlines. Transferred to Rome, in 2008 he gained his doctorate in Philosophy, but in 2008 he was back in Baghdad. He became Parish Priest of the Chaldean Cathedral of St Joseph, and Professor of Philosophy at Babel College. He was Dean of the Chaldean priests in Baghdad, and Secretary of the Commission for Christian Youth there. He speaks Arabic, Italian, and English, and is familiar with German and Aramaic.

We cannot imagine the conditions for Christians in Iraq. Fanatics often identify them with the West, but the Chaldean Catholics have in fact been there since the very beginnings of Christianity. In an interview in 2010 Fr Saad said “I was kidnapped on 15th August 2006. I was the first priest in Baghdad who was abducted. For 28 days I was in the hands of a fanatical Muslim group. In that time I learned a lot about myself and about the relationship between the religions. In 2008 I came back to Baghdad, because I love Baghdad, I love Iraq and I love my people, so I wanted to continue working here as a priest. I also have a lot of Muslim friends here.” Bishop Saad, we celebrate your dedication to priesthood, your appointment as bishop, and we pray for you and your people.

Fr Matthew