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Chaldeans Face Moral Risks in United States

U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches concelebrate a Maronite Divine Service of the Holy Mysteries at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome May 17. Bishops from the Chaldean, Ruthenian, Maronite, Ukrainian, Armenian, Melkite, Syria c and Romanian Catholic churches were making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)  

18 May 2012 – by Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Iraqi Catholics fleeing physical danger in their homeland often find themselves unprepared for the moral threats awaiting their families in the United States, said the head of Chaldean Catholics in the Western U.S.

Seeing a lack of respect for the unborn, altered definitions of marriage and a general disregard for Christian values means Chaldean Catholic families settling in the United States often find themselves in a world they are not at all accustomed to, Chaldean Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo of the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego told Catholic News Service May 17.

The challenge for many parents is not so much the usual difficulties with the language or acclimating to a new culture, but rather being afraid of what their children may be exposed to every day in the media and many schools, he said.

“This is the irony, that is the dilemma,” he said. They escape from gunfire in Iraq trying to save their family so they go to the United States “and they find physical security, but then they face moral attack,” he said.

Because of a lack of moral grounding in the wider culture, families turn to the church for help as they struggle to maintain their Christian identity and live according to the Gospel, Bishop Jammo said.

The bishop was in Rome for his “ad limina” visit to the Vatican together with other heads of Eastern Catholic dioceses in the United States.

Chaldean Catholics are the largest Eastern-rite community in the United States and their numbers are steadily growing. The Chaldean eparchies based in Detroit and San Diego count about 165,000 faithful, according to Vatican statistics for 2011.

Bishop Jammo said their growing numbers are due to a large and steady stream of refugees since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, who heads the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, the diocese for Chaldean Catholics in the Eastern United States, said the biggest challenge in his diocese is how to help families who have been unable to go to church for years.

Many of the refugees spent five to 10 years in a transit country such as Lebanon, Jordan or Syria before they found a home in the United States, he said.

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Tags: Iraqi Christians Vatican United States Eastern Churches Chaldeans