Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East opens its doors in Erbil

Patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East opens its doors in Erbil
After 16 years, the new patriarchate of the Assyrian Church of the East was opened in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
3 min read
14 September, 2022
Iraqi Christians gather at Saint Joseph's church in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on 9 April 2022, to celebrate Palm Sunday [Getty]

 The Assyrian Church of the East on Monday opened its new Patriarchate in Erbil, the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Masoud Barzani, president of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Irvin Hicks, the general counsel of the United States in Erbil, Mar Awa Royel, the church's Patriarch, the Christian community, and other Kurdish officials.

Rudaw reported that the patriarch "was built upon the request of the Barzani Headquarters," but The New Arab could not confirm that from independent or related sources.

TNA reached out to Royel and an official at the Barzani Headquarters, but they were not immediately available to comment.

"It was then where the foundation for co-existence and brotherhood was laid out, and there is nothing more beautiful than a country where everyone lives as brothers," Barzani was quoted as saying by Rudaw during a speech at the inauguration ceremony.

"The Assyrian Church of the East today opened its new Patriarchate in Erbil. It's a move decades in the making. The patriarchal seat left Iraq in 1933, but always with an eye on returning. Construction of a new facility in Erbil was announced in 2006," Joe Snell, an Assyrian and the Middle East reporter with Al-Monitor, wrote on Twitter.

Regarding the significance of opening this Patriarchate in Erbil, Joseph Slewah, a former Iraqi lawmaker from Nineveh who led the Warka bloc, told TNA that opening churches in Iraq is not enough in ending the mayhem against Christians in the war-torn country.

"The Christian people in Iraq, including the Assyrians, are prosecuted across the country, including in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The stones in the churches have no value if the Christian people are being prosecuted, feel they are second-degree citizens, evacuated from their lands and their political will denied across the country," Slewah said.

Live Story

Regarding the Iraqi Kurdistan region, he said that the quota for the Christians "is being hijacked", their lands have been invaded, and the Kurdish ruling parties are creating "fake" political parties for the Christians that are not representative of their needs.  

On who financed the building of the Patriarchate, Slewah said that the Iraqi people, including the Christians, are the real owners of all resources in the country and that "the politicians have not gotten their fortune from their ancestors."

"The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a share of the budget of the Iraqi federal government, thus this share should be spent for the people and not the ruling families. Thus, it is shameful that we hear rumours that the church is a generosity from politicians to portray that the people need the politicians, but the contrary is true," he added.  

Pope Francis landed in northern Iraq last year on a historical tour of the country, visiting the Christian communities that endured the brutality of the Islamic State caliphate.

"There are less than half a million Christians left in all of Iraq, out of six million in 2003. In Baghdad, there were more than 750,000. Today, there are no more than 75,000," explains William Warda, President of the Hammurabi organization for the protection of religious minorities, told TNA in 2020.