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Friday, January 5, 2007

An armed security guard stands watch as Iraqi Catholics arrive for Easter Mass in Baghdad April 16, 2006.
CNS photo/Ali Jasim, Reuters

Security concerns force
transfer of seminary from
Baghdad to northern Iraq

ROME (CNS) -- Continued violence against Catholic priests and church property in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has prompted the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad to move the city's theological university and seminary to northern Iraq.

Iraq's only Christian theological university, the Pontifical Babel College for Philosophy and Theology, and the patriarchal major seminary, Simon Peter, were to be transferred to Arbil, said a Jan. 4 report by the Rome-based AsiaNews news agency.

The two institutions had been closed for several months because of a lack of security and increasing violence in Baghdad.

The seminary's rector and vice rector had been kidnapped in September and December, respectively; the two men eventually were released unharmed.

AsiaNews said the move "had been in the pipeline for sometime," but the decision was not made official until Jan. 4.

The Baghdad-based seminary and a nearby church suffered damage after a car bomb had been detonated Aug. 1, 2004, killing 15 people. That same day three other churches were targeted in simultaneous car-bomb attacks in the capital.

Iraqi Bishop Rabban al Qas told AsiaNews that he was hosting students until the newly located college and seminary were ready to open.

Arbil is located in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan. Administered by a Kurdish regional government but still part of a federal Iraq, Kurdistan has attracted many Christians as the area has so far seemed to be relatively safer than other parts of the country.


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