In 2006, Father Basel Yaldo was kidnapped in his native Iraq by Islamist extremists and endured three days of fierce beatings. Even after being released, he continued to receive death threats, and was eventually sent to the United States in 2007 for his own safety. Last month, Yaldo returned to Iraq and, on Friday, was ordained a bishop in Baghdad. He will stay there to serve the Iraqi people.
Yaldo’s kidnapping took place in September 2006, just after Pope Benedict’s controversial speech in Regensburg, Germany, where his reflections on Islam ignited anti-Christian violence in several parts of the Muslim world.
Born in Telkaif in 1970, Yaldo studied in Baghdad and later at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. He was ordained a priest in Baghdad in 2002 and subsequently earned a doctorate in theology.
After his capture and ensuing death threats, Yaldo was transferred to the parish of St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Michigan, where he has served until now.
According to Father Yaldo, the 2006 abduction “brought me closer to God and strengthened my faith. It also pushed me to be more serious and be more involved. Virgin Mary was the one who helped me when I was kidnapped, and I’m sure she will help me in Iraq.”
Present conditions as they are in Iraq, the young bishop will require all the help he can get. Fareed Saka, a deacon at St. Peter’s Chaldean Church in El Cajon, California, recently said of his pastor, Father Noel Gorgis, that if he returns to Iraq “he’ll be killed in a day or two, kidnapped maybe.”
Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean patriarch in Baghdad, has ordered Gorgis and several other Chaldean priests to return to Iraq to assist the church in this time of extreme need, as militant jihadists are desolating the country, destroying churches, and killing Christians.
Bishop Yaldo will be Archbishop Sako’s right-hand man, serving as auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon and heading the local church when Sako is away. He will also be responsible for coordinating communication with Chaldean dioceses around the world.
The new bishop said he wants to “give people hope and to keep their faith alive” when he takes up his new mission, and he also hopes to persuade the Iraqi government to better protect the Christians in Iraq.
Rev. Manuel Boji, the vicar general of Yaldo’s Chaldean Catholic Diocese in the US, said he was honored by Yaldo’s consecration as bishop. Boji’s childhood church in Tel Keif was seized by the Islamic State last year.
“This is another episode in the history of the Chaldean Church, which is known as the Church of the Martyrs,” he said. “The church has been through times of freedom, times of persecution.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.