The numbers of Iraqi immigrants to the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa – New Zealand, had increased since the mid-eighties of the last century (the twentieth century), before that there were few individuals that had arrived in the sixties and seventies of that century. Their growing numbers was due to the security conditions, political and economic instability in Iraq in particular and in the region generally. They were spread and scattered to different parts of the world and arrived to this remote patch of land through one of the ways that immigration allowed either via point system (qualifications), humanitarian or political migration, family reunion, marriage, visit, work or study visas or entering illegally to seek asylum. The Chaldeans had a stake in their presence in this country with their fellow Christians like those of the Assyrians, Syriacs and Armenians from Iraq or neighbouring countries such as Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Syria.
Beginning of the church
After the numbers of immigrants increased, especially in the mid-nineties, they began to participate in the activities of the local church (Roman Catholic – Latin Rite). These activities were of a personal and collective nature to persons who were already involved previously in youth groups, Christian religious education, choirs and service of the mass in Iraq. They began to organise working groups to maintain our heritage and transfer it to adults and children and with this became the need to get a place and a priest to take care of this group. The community was visited every now and again by priests of the Chaldean Church from Australia, it should be noted that Monsignor Zuhair Toma Qijbu the Patriarchal Vicar for the Chaldean Church in Australia at the time, had visited the parishioners in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington for several times. With the number of parishioners increasing he met with them for the purpose of organising their ranks and to form the first parish council in South Auckland in the beginning of 1996 from people who gave themselves to work voluntarily with their experience in faith, social and cultural aspects. In April 1996, a group of distinguished community members visited Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland Catholic Diocese to discuss with him to facilitate the task of sending a priest to serve the Iraqi community. In that meeting, the Bishop of Auckland showed his willingness to make a place for any priest that would come to serve the Iraqi community either temporarily or permanently and that the Iraqi parishioners contribute financially for the priest’s upkeep and on his part to send a letter to that effect to the Patriarch at the time. These efforts culminated with the historic visit by the late Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid (RIP) with the current Patriarch (Auxiliary Bishop Emmanuel Delly) when he was an aide in July 2002 and promised to send a priest for the service of the community.
Monsignor Zuhair Toma Qijbu in one of his visits to NZ with a group of choir at St Anne’s church in Manurewa / South Auckland – Easter 1996
A group of parishioners, from right: Senan Shawket Boa, Johnny Audisho, Karim Moshi, Elizabeth Alkass, Sabri Nissan with a number of priests from other local churches and a nun during a visit to the Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn.
The arrival of Father Fawzi Koro
Saint Addai the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Parish was established in New Zealand in May of 2003 with the arrival of Father Fawzi Koro to Auckland to establish the Church for the Iraqi Chaldean Catholic community in New Zealand with nearly 3000 of its parishioners distributed around New Zealand. They are distributed around several areas according to where the majority live.
Centre of South Auckland
The number of families here is nearly 250 families, in the beginning a house was bought in Manurewa, South Auckland to be used as the centre for the Chaldeans which was opened by Bishop Patrick Dunn in November 28, 2003 in the presence of Monsignor Zuhair Toma Qijbu the Patriarchal Vicar at the time along with a number of priests and a crowd of parishioners. After that a new centre was bought in Papatoetoe, South Auckland (the current centre which includes the church building, a hall, classrooms and the priest’s house) this was acquired and used since the first of April 2005 with the help of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland who gave a loan of one million three hundred thousand dollars. The centre was dedicated and blessed by His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly on 15th of July 2005, during his visit to New Zealand in the presence of Archbishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop of Eastern United States, Bishop Dennis Brown of the Hamilton Catholic Diocese in NZ, Monsignor Zuhair Toma Qijbu the Patriarchal Vicar in Australia at the time, Fr Fawzi Koro and a number of other priests and the esteemed Honourable Chris Carter, Minister Ethnic Affairs in the New Zealand Government and Members of Parliament at the time. Also during his visit the Patriarch ordained 15 sub-deacons from North and South Auckland. As a result of the active work of the successive parish councils, in 2009 work was started on the project for the renovation and expansion of the church hall and its toilets and kitchen which was inaugurated on February 13, 2010 in the presence of a large number of people from the parish, and we are now currently studying the draft project plan for the renovation of the church. This church became the first cell for St Addai the Apostle Parish in New Zealand as part of the larger St Thomas Diocese in Australia and New Zealand, which leads it His Excellency Archbishop Djibrael Kassab.
Centre of North Auckland
The number of families here is approximately 100 families that are registered with the church and they use the local Catholic churches for spiritual, educational and social activities, and we are also studying with the parish council the project of obtaining our own centre specific for our needs with God’s help and the enthusiasm of the local Iraqi parishioners.
Centre of Hamilton
The city is about 120km south of Auckland. There were initially more than 50 families who lived in this city, but because of secondary migration to Australia, the number had dropped to 20 families. There are still monthly masses being held there.
Centre of Wellington, the Capital
The Capital city is about 650km south of Auckland. The number of families is almost 40 families. Regular masses get held there during the different church feasts throughout the year.
A Selection of Community Photos
St Addai the Apostle Parish Council / first council group in Auckland – 28/11/2003
Bishop Patrick Dunn with the sub-deacons and choir after celebrating mass at St Addai the Apostle Church – 10/12/2006
Archbishop Djibrael Kassab, bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand celebrating First Holy Communion at St Addai the Apostle Church – 4/10/2009
Ordination of 15 sub-deacons by laying of hands of His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly in St Patrick Cathedral/ Auckland – 13/07/2005