The Chaldean Catholic Mission in the United Kingdom
The Vanguard of the Catholic Chaldeans landed on the shores of Britain at the end of the 19th Century. Regrettably, there are no records available to show who and where they settled. The Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel II Toma visited Britain in 1920 to reveal to the British authorities the damages that befell on the Christians in Iraq and Turkey as a consequence of World War I and the atrocities that were committed against them. Patriarch Yousuf Ghanima VII also visited Britain in 1950 to meet the small community that existed.
It is believed that over one hundred families settled in United Kingdom during the 1970’s. Most of them were academics or in businesses preferring to live in the UK. Then the number gradually increased due to the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties. Then there was another peak of influx after the first gulf War in 1990. It is estimated that there are about 800 Chaldean families in the UK, mainly in London but also in many other cities (Cardiff, Manchester, and Birmingham).
Patriarch Paulis Sheikho appointed Father Phillipe Najim in 1986 as the Mission’s pastor. Mass was held at St. Anne ‘s R. C. Church in central London. There were several fund-raising activities, which resulted in purchasing the Mission’s current residency in West Ealing.
In 1991, Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid appointed Father Andrawis Abouna as the new Mission Pastor to serve the Iraqi Chaldean and Syriac Catholic community in Britain. Father Andrawis was later ordained Bishop (in 2003) and he was succeeded by Fr Habib Jajou who was appointed by Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid in 2003 to take over the Mission.
With the continuous increase of parishioners were most of them living in west London the congregation moved its place of worship to the Holy Family Catholic Church in Acton in August 2004. After 10 years as a parish priest to the Iraqi Catholic Chaldeans in Britain, Father Habib Jajou was consecrated Archbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Basra and south Iraq in January 2014. Father Nadeer Dako took over the mission in April 2014.
The mission’s is under the guidance of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster which is headed by Cardinal Vincent Nichol. We also report to Bishop Paul McAleenan, who is the Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and has oversight of all matters concerning Ethnic Chaplaincies in the United Kingdom. The mission is also an officially registered charity.
The Chaldean Catholic mission in the United Kingdom began its 30-Year Anniversary celebration with the first pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. On July 2, 2016 more than 200 Chaldean pilgrims were joined by the Lebanese Melkite church parishioners. The pilgrims visited several sacred places and afterwards carried the statue of Our Lady in a procession along the ‘Holy Mile’ afterwards a solemn Catholic Mass was celebrated in Arabic and Aramaic.
On Saturday 22 October 2016, 40 enthusiastic young Chaldean pilgrims set off to Westminster Cathedral on their pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy. The young pilgrims walked through the Holy Door and made a pilgrimage along the Way of Mercy where they prayed and contemplated the mercy of God.
First Holy Communion
In June 2017, we will celebrate mass for the Mission’s first Holy Communion in the UK. All the children have been studying very hard all year long under the guidance of the catechists and other volunteers.
Holy Masses are held at the Holy Family Church in Acton (West London). This is a church which is owned by the Westminster Diocese and we conduct all our activities at the church hall. We enjoy a very good relationship with the parish priests and he is very flexible with us.
Our estimated assets stand at about 4 million pounds’ sterling. This is based on donated sums and the value of our properties and liquidity in the bank. The Mass offerings are very low. We are currently working towards building a system to increase the financial capacity of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
In addition, our own church, the mission needs a community centre so that we can freely practise our liturgical, cultural and social events.
We require a centre that comprises of at least three classrooms, a hall with capacity for 200 to 250 people. Additionally, the centre should have a priest’s accommodation and a church that accommodate up to 400 parishioners.
The mission has a small residence consisting of two flats, one for the accommodation of the priest and the other is a centre serving the Chaldean community. Currently we are planning to extend the Chaldean mission’s flat. There is an initial budget for this extension and we are waiting for a permission form London Borough of Ealing so that we proceed with the building.