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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6243

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (10:36): The week before last I visited Iraq, which was an important visit, which I'll report more broadly on to the House at another time. I want to focus these remarks on the Chaldean community. I was very pleased to meet again with His Beatitude Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq since 2013. I had met him previously on his visit to Sydney as Patriarch, and I was pleased to meet with him for dinner in Baghdad the week before last.

The reason I want particularly to pay tribute to His Beatitude is that this week he will be created a cardinal of the Catholic Church by His Holiness, the Pope. I think it's appropriate that this House recognise this event. As some in the House would know, Chaldeans are a very important part of the Christian population of Iraq and Syria. The Chaldean Church has been in existence since the year 1552. Migration to Australia for many Chaldeans began in the 1970s, and particularly during the post-Saddam crises in both Iraqi and Syria we have welcomed many Chaldeans into Australia and particularly into my community in McMahon. The Chaldean Church is very ably led by the Bishop, His Grace Amel Nona. I know he joins with the rest of the Australian community in wishing their Archbishop congratulations on being appointed as a Catholic cardinal.

Patriarch Sako grew up on the Iraq-Turkey border. He was ordained a priest in 1974 in Mosul, before being ordained an archbishop in 2003. He shares with many in the House and all of Iraq despair at the destruction of Mosul, something I'll talk about separately in the House on another occasion. He has promoted religious tolerance amongst all religions, and he has called for unity with other religions, and I quote, 'especially with Muslims, with whom we have humanitarian, social and ties.' He is an impressive man, being able to speak Syriac, German, French, English, Italian and Arabic.

He's a man of great determination. After having completed his studies, he was forbidden to teach religion during the Saddam Hussein regime. He sought a meeting with Saddam, but was refused, so he then undertook an entirely different doctorate with a small religious component in order to qualify as a teacher under the Saddam Hussein regime, and continued to teach. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm sure the House will wish him well in that endeavour, but most particularly wish him and the Chaldean community in Australia congratulations on his elevation, which will occur in Rome later this week. The Chaldean community was good enough to invite me to go to Rome for that celebration. Alas, I will be here in parliament with all of us, but it is appropriate that we spend a small amount of time in this parliament recognising His Beatitude Archbishop Sako and recognising the efforts and contribution of the Chaldean community in Australia more broadly.