Ont. Priest becomes Baghdad bishop

March 21, 2011
Archbishop-elect Yousif Mansoor

Archbishop-elect Yousif Mansoor


MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — The next archbishop of Baghdad has spent 14 years in Canada learning some of the blessings of the secular state.

"In my 14 years in Canada the thing that really impressed me was the way democracy developed in this country," Archbishop-elect Yousif Mansoor told The Catholic Register.

"In a multicultural society, nobody would ask what is your religion or background. This is the thing that has impressed me, and I will try to export it."

Mansoor's election as archbishop of Baghdad was confirmed by Pope Benedict March 3. He will be ordained a bishop in his hometown of Karakosh, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, April 16.

Echoing the results of last October's Vatican Synod on the Middle East, Mansoor sees his job in Baghdad in terms of encouraging Christians to contribute to a democratic future for all Iraqis.

"As a bishop I will preach and educate people that a human being is a human being, free to exercise their religion with no fear and with no force."

Iraq's Christian population, estimated at 1.5 million before the U.S.-led 2003 invasion has shrunk by about 50 per cent.

As Muslim militias have ethnically and religiously cleansed neighbourhoods in Baghdad, Christians have swelled the ranks of refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The bishops of Iraq are in a tough spot. They can hardly encourage their flock to abandon one of the first homelands of Christianity, evangelized by the Apostle Thomas. Nor can they ask people to live in fear.

"We try to encourage them to stay with hope, the hope of our God," said Mansoor.

Mansoor sees his responsibility as pastoring the poor, those who can't afford to flee.

"The people with money, they can afford to stay in Syria and Jordan. The poor people, they cannot afford it. The bishops, if they get any money from anywhere, they will try to keep it for the poor people."