My amazing guest in the interview segment this week is Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna, auxiliary of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad, and the Apostolic Visitor for Chaldeans Residing in Europe. He was in Rome to talk about his book “Abducted in Iraq” and graciously made time for an interview with “Vatican Insider.”

Bishop Hanna has advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering (Baghdad University), theology (Pontifical Urbaniana University) and a doctorate in philosophy (Pontifical Gregorian University).

Ordained to the episcopacy in 2014, he previously served as Director of Studies for Philosophy and Theology and at the Pontifical Babel College.

Bishop Hanna is a master linguist with fluency in Arabic, Aramaic, Italian, English, German and is also versed in classical Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He is a prolific writer of academic articles on Christianity and contemporary cultural challenges as well as ethical and anthropological questions in modern philosophy.

Bishop Hanna is author and translator of several books including his latest Abducted in Iraq: A Priest in Baghdad .

Abduction” is the firsthand account of his kidnapping in his hometown of Baghdad on August 15, 2006 by a militant group associated with al-Qaeda. As a young parish priest at the time and visiting lecturer on philosophy at Babel College near Baghdad, Fr. Hanna was kidnapped after celebrating Mass on August 15 and released on September 11. He was beaten because he would not become Muslim. He escaped but was soon captured once again. After a month in captivity, he was finally released and found his way back to his family.

Hanna’s plight attracted international attention after Pope Benedict XVI requested prayers for the safe return of the young priest.

“Abduction” is his inspiring tale of faith – in God and mankind – and courage and his insights on the future of Christianity in Iraq.

I felt I was in the presence of a very saintly man as we spoke and this is a do-not-miss interview.

As I was writing this introduction I received an email from Bishop Hanna (a letter to members of the media) stating: “I wanted to share with you the good news received this morning from University of Notre Dame that My book “Abducted in Iraq” was selected as a ForeWord Reviews Indies Award Finalist in the Religion Category. I thank God for his Love and Blessings. I pray for you all and for your families.”

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I had the joy last week of seeing all my Iraqi Chaldean bishop friends when they were in Rome for their synod. I also spent a few minutes with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, whom I knew when he was archbishop of Kirkuk, I mentioned this wonderful visit on my blog last week and today I offer a link to this interview with Abp. Bashar Warda of Erbil that was done by CNA’s Elise Harris for “Vaticano.” I taped a portion of that interview and then did one of my own for my radio program, “Vatican Insider.” That interview will air this weekend.

Here we are at the Casa Tra Noi hotel where the bishops were staying and holding their meetings:







The synod on the family that just concluded brought bishops from the universal church to Rome to discuss critical issues and challenges facing the family in contemporary society. Bishops came from far flung corners of the world, including Tonga in the middle of the Pacific to places north and south of the equator to the diocese of Rome whose bishop is Pope Francis.

The Holy Father closed the synod on the family Sunday with a final Mass and homily and on Monday he addressed another synod whose bishops have far more serious problems than some of the ones we have been talking about.

They are in Rome to discuss the very survival of their Church, of their faithful.

Pope Francis, in fact, addressed the synod of Chaldean bishops from around the world as they gather in Rome for five days, relocating to the Eternal City after their planned September 22 synod in Ankawa in northern Iraq had to be postponed. The Pope spoke to the 21 bishops from Chaldean dioceses in Iraq, the Middle East and the diaspora as they gathered in Rome from the United States, Australia and Canada. Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako was already in Rome, having attended the synod on the family.

Ankawa is a suburb of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It is a majority Christian town that is housing great numbers of refugees who have fled incredible dangerous situations in Iraqi cities such as Mosul, where ISIS terrorists have taken over.

I know quite a number of the Chaldean bishops and will be meeting several of them tomorow during their early afternoon break. In fact, it was at the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa that I stayed during both of my visits to this land, and it was then Fr. Warda who was the rector during my first visit. I also got to know his friend, Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul (he is now in Australia with the diaspora), and became acquainted with Archbishop – now Patriarch – Louis Sako.

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The Pope’s talk to the bishops Monday brought back so many memories of my two trips to Iraq, the second being to attend the episcopal consecration of my friend Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil. How we became friends is like something out of a movie!

Abp. Warda’s episcopal consecration:


The Holy Father’s address speaks not only to the Iraqi and Chaldean situation but to that of the entire Middle East. Yesterday I gave a few excerpts from that talk: Following is his entire address to the prelates.

Dear Brother Bishops, I welcome you with joy and I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako for his kind words. I take this occasion to reach out, through you, to the faithful and all those dwelling in the beloved lands of Iraq and Syria in this particularly troubled and sensitive moment, with a message of comfort and Christian solidarity. With the approach of the Jubilee Year, may God’s mercy soothe the wounds of war afflicting the heart of your communities, that no one may feel discouragement in this time when the outcry of violence seems to drown out our heartfelt prayers for peace.

Today the situation in your lands of origin is gravely compromised by the fanatical hatred sown by terrorism, which continues to cause a great hemorrhage of faithful who leave the lands of their fathers, where they grew up firmly rooted in the furrow of tradition. This state of affairs clearly undermines the vital Christian presence in that land which witnessed the beginning of the journey of the Patriarch Abraham, heard the voice of the Prophets who called Israel to hope during the Exile, and saw the foundation of the first Churches upon the blood of many martyrs. There too Christians bore witness to the fullness of the Gospel, made their specific contribution to the growth of society over centuries of peaceful coexistence with our Islamic brothers and sisters. Sadly, these are times which are instead marked by countless examples of persecution, and even martyrdom.

The Chaldean Church, which suffers from the war, is also conscious of the needs of the faithful in the diaspora, who are desirous to maintain their solid roots while becoming part of new situations. So I confirm, today more than ever, the complete support and solidarity of the Apostolic See in favour of the common good of the entire Chaldean Church. I pray that Christians will not be forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East – I think especially of the sons and daughters of your Church, and their rich traditions. I urge you to work tirelessly as builders of unity in all the provinces of Iraq, fostering dialogue and cooperation among all those engaged in public life, and contributing to healing existing divisions while preventing new ones from arising.

Your visit enables me to renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community to adopt every useful strategy aimed at bringing peace to countries terribly devastated by hatred, so that the life-giving breeze of love will once more be felt in places which have always been a crossroads for peoples, cultures and nations. May the peace for which we all hope arise on the horizon of history, so that the grievous tragedies caused by violence may yield to a climate of mutual coexistence.

The Synod which you are celebrating these days in Urbe , is a “journeying together”, a favorable moment of exchange amid the diversities which enrich your fraternal communion under the gaze of Christ, the Good Shepherd. As I had occasion to say in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, “Journeying together is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice… Let us never forget this! For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of service, the only power is the power of the cross. As the Master tells us: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” ( Mt 20:25-27). It shall not be so among you : in this expression we touch the heart of the mystery of the Church, and we receive the enlightenment necessary to understand our hierarchical service” (Address for the Fifieth Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops , 17 October 2015).

I ask, then, to take up the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to have among you the mind of Christ (cf. Phil 2:5), acting with mercy, humility, patience and a mutual acceptance which gives rise to communion.

May the work of the Synod reflect a sense of responsibility, participation and service. Keep always before you the image of the Good Shepherd who is concerned for the salvation of his sheep, and is especially concerned for those who have strayed. May you imitate him: zealous in seeking the salus animarum of priests as well as laity, realizing full well that the exercise of communion sometimes demands a genuine kenosis , a self-basement and self-spoliation.

I encourage you to be a father to your priests and all consecrated men and woman, who are your primary collaborators, and, in respect for tradition and canonical norms, to be accepting of them, benevolent and understanding of their needs, discerning ways to help them be ever more aware of the demands of their ministry and service to the faithful. In doing so, you will bridge distances and discern the response to be given to the pressing needs of the Chaldean Church today, in your native lands and in the diaspora. In this way the reflections which emerge from your discussions will be able to provide fruitful solutions to your current needs and points of convergence for resolving liturgical and more general issues.

As I urge you to carry on your pastoral responsibilities with fraternal communion and a missionary spirit, I ask all of you, their pastors, to bring my words of encouragement to the faithful of the Chaldean Church. May they echo on your lips as a caress from the Pope that warms their hearts.

Entrusting the Chaldean Church to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, I impart to you, your priests and religious, and all the faithful, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of hope and consolation in the love of our Merciful God.



POPE FRANCIS ADDRESSES SYNOD OF CHALDEAN BISHOPS – (Vatican Radio) – Pope Francis Monday addressed the members of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, reminding them that “the only authority is the authority of service, the only power is the power of the Cross”. He spoke about the responsible use of authority in the Church, saying “journeying together is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice”. The Holy Father urged the prelates to “keep always before you the image of the Good Shepherd who is concerned for the salvation of his sheep …  May you imitate him: zealous in seeking the salus animarum of priests as well as laity, realizing full well that the exercise of communion sometimes demands a genuine kenosis, a self-basement and self-spoliation.” Francis lamented the situation caused by hatred sowed through terrorism, saying it has created “a great hemorrhage of faithful who leave the lands of their father.” The Pope affirmed the “complete support and solidarity of the Apostolic See in favour of the common good of the entire Chaldean Church”, as many Christians are displaced by violence. (more details tomorrow)

POPE RECEIVES GYPSY PEOPLE – (VIS, Vatican Radio) – This morning, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the World Pilgrimage of Gypsy People, which gathered together Roma, Sinti and other itinerant peoples, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples in collaboration with the “Migrantes” Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the “Migrantes” Office of the diocese of Rome and the Sant’Egidio Community. Pope Francis noted there was a strong growth in vocations to the priesthood and ‎religious ‎life from among the gypsy people, holding out an Indian bishop from among them as case in ‎point.  ‎‎“Today we have with us Bishop Devprasad Ganawa, a son of this people,” Pope Francis said, ‎pointing ‎to the first bishop from among the gypsies appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to Jhabua, ‎Madhya ‎Pradesh, in 2009 and then to Udaipur, Rajasthan, in 2012. His remark ‎came during the meeting with some 7000 gypsies from around the world. Monay was the final day of a ‎‎4-day ‎pilgrimage to Rome, to commemorate 50 years of the historic visit of Blessed Pope Paul ‎VI to a ‎gypsy ‎camp in Pomezia, near Rome.

FRANCIS MEETS MILITARY CHAPLAIN TRAINEES – (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday urged the “abolition of war” while meeting participants in a training course for military chaplains jointly organized by the Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The course explored some of the current challenges of international humanitarian law regarding the protection of human dignity during internal armed conflicts and the so-called “new conflicts.” Pope Francis told the participants the issue is “unfortunately, very topical” due to the increased violence and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, such as Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. “In this age, in which we are experiencing a ‘piecemeal third world war ‘, you are called upon to supply the military and their families with the spiritual and ethical dimensions which help them to face the difficulties and often harrowing questions inherent in this peculiar service to their country and to humanity,” he said.

CHURCH LEADERS SIGN APPEAL FOR FRUITFUL COP 21 CONFERENCE – (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Appeal by by Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops from across the globe representing the continental groupings of national episcopal conferences, to the negotiators of the COP 21 in Paris (Conference of Parties), to be held from 30 November to 11 December this year. The initiative was promoted by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, inspired by the Holy Father’s Encyclical “Laudato si’” The appeal is issued by Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops from across the globe representing the continental groupings of national episcopal conferences and it is addressed to those negotiating the COP 21 in Paris, calling on them to work toward the approval of a fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement. “Representing the Catholic Church from the five continents, we Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops have come together to express, on our own behalf and on behalf of the people for whom we care, the widely-held hope that a just and legally binding climate agreement will emerge from the negotiations of the COP 21 in Paris. We advance a ten-point policy proposal, drawing on the concrete experience of people across the continents, and linking climate change to social injustice and the social exclusion of the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens.”


PAPAL TELEGRAM UPON DEATH OF SLOVAK CARDINAL KOREC – (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to Archbishop Stanislav Zvolensky of Bratislava, president of the Episcopal Conference of Slovakia, for the death last Saturday of Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec, at the age of 91. The Pope remembers with profound emotion the archbishop emeritus of Nitra, a committed and generous pastor who throughout his long episcopal ministry was a “fearless witness of the Gospel and a tireless defender of the Christian faith and the rights of the person”. The cardinal, who was imprisoned for several years and prevented from freely exercising his episcopal mission, “did not let himself be intimidated, always giving a luminous example of strength and trust in divine providence, as well as faithfulness to the See of Peter”, Francis writes. “I thank the Lord for having given His Church this eminent priestly and episcopal figure, and raise fervent prayers to God that He might welcome in His eternal joy, after so much suffering, this good and faithful servant”.