A priest in London, Mgr Nizar Semaan has been chosen to be Archbishop Co-adjutor of the war-ravaged city of Mosul in Iraq. 'Co-adjutor' means that in due course he will succeed the current incumbent of the Syriac Catholic archdiocese.
During the ISIS occupation the Christian population of Mosul fled to the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Churches and convents in Mosul and surrounding towns, some of them majority Christian, have been damaged or desecrated. The Christian population is now slowly returning.
"The task of rebuilding will be a great challenge," said Mgr Semaan, "but we know that we can count on the support of our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries. And of course Our Lord himself will be with us."
Mgr Semaan, 54, has been based in Hammersmith, West London, for 14 years, with responsibility for Syriac Rite Catholics through the whole of the UK. Previously he had pastoral charge of the Syriac Rite community in Italy. The turmoil in Iraq and especially the ravages of ISIS have created a diaspora of Iraqi Christians in the Middle East, Europe and North America.
Mgr Semaan comes from Qaraqosh, a traditionally Christian town 20 miles from Mosul. He studied at the patriarchal seminary in Lebanon, the University of the Holy Spirit at Kaslik, also in Lebanon, and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome where he was awarded a doctorate.
During his time in the UK he has been interviewed on the BBC. With other Middle Eastern church leaders he was invited to meet Prince Charles, who has taken a keen interest in the situation of persecuted Christians.
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