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New home for Sydney’s Syrian Catholics one step closer
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with Syrian Patriarch Mor Ignatius Yousef Ill Younan on July 8 in Sydney (Alfonsus Fok/Catholic Weekly)

A new home for a millennia-old Christian tradition has moved a step closer after the Syrian Catholic Church blessed the foundation stone for a new parish and pastoral centre in Sydney’s south-west. Source: Catholic weekly newspaper.

Patriarch Mor Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and the entire East of the Syrian Catholic Church, travelled from Lebanon for this historic occasion on July 8. The host was Father Lenard Ina, parish priest of the Syrian Catholic Church in Sydney and Canberra.

His Beatitude was accompanied by a delegation of religious leaders, including the Apostolic Visitor of the Syrian Catholic Church in Australia and New Zealand, Archbishop Basilius Georges Casmoussa, Archbishop of Baghdad Ephrem Yousif Abba, Bishop of the USA Barnaba Yousif Habash and Secretary of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate Monsignor Habib Mrad.

Father Ina thanked his patriarch, the apostolic visitor and the Archdiocese of Sydney for their years of support and said his fast-growing parish of more than 1,000 families had “long dreamed of this day”.

His Beatitude praised the “harmony” he saw among religious and civil leaders in their support of Syrian Catholics and their church-building project, and mentioned his friendship with Cardinal George Pell, whose grave he had visited two days earlier.

He also spoke about the persecution and oppression that led many Syrian Catholics to settle in Australia.

“The truth is, unfortunately, that people today are still being persecuted, driven from their country and killed in the name of religion,” he said.

Syrian Catholics follow similar traditions to the Eastern Catholic faith communities, such as the Maronites. Their origins go back to the first Christians of Antioch in what is now southern Turkey. They can also be found mainly in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

The Syrian Catholic Church is in full communion with the Holy See and has been present in Sydney for four decades. It has been a place of refuge for many people from northern Iraq, including its pastor, Father Ina, who fled persecution by IS in 2014.

Although the church has a church in Concord, it relies on other churches and schools in the southwest to hold Masses, sacraments, funerals, youth group activities, and catechisms.

Last year, the congregation received planning permission for the church and pastoral center on the Kemps Creek property, which will serve the spiritual and pastoral needs of the majority of the more than 1,000 families living in the Southwest.

Syrian Catholics have proven to be a “great gift to the Catholic Church and Australian society,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told the Patriarch.

“I know that it is a great pain for you and your brother bishops that so many have left your Holy Land after being expelled from Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.

“But your pain is our gain here in Australia because you have been a real strength for the Latin Church and the entire Catholic Church, for people of faith and also for our wider secular community.”

FULL STORY

Syrian Catholics celebrate milestone with blessing of cornerstone for their new church (By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic weekly newspaper)