( 4UMF NEWS ) Gambling Priest Lost $380K Meant For Refugees:
A Canadian Catholic priest is under investigation after he told his bishop he allegedly gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to support refugees.
The Toronto Star reported Monday that Father Amer Saka, a priest at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ontario, phoned Bishop Emanuel Shaleta last month to tell him he had lost the money.
“I said, ‘How?’” Shaleta told the Star. “ He said, ‘Gambling’”.
The conversation took place Feb. 23. Local police confirmed they received a complaint the next day about the alleged misappropriation of the funds, which translates to roughly $380,000 in U.S. currency.
Investigations remain ongoing, with no charges put forth or allegations verified in court.
The Chaldean Catholic Church, which Saka and Shaleta serve, caters to Iraqi Catholics and is based in Baghdad. A province of the church sprang up in Toronto several years ago as a response to Canada’s increasing numbers of Iraqi immigrants.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton runs the refugee sponsorship the funds were intended for, the Star reported. Its chancellor identified Saka as the leader of a group raising money to sponsor refugees from Iraq.
The diocese had filed for as many as 20 refugees to arrive from Iraq under Saka’s sponsorship, according to the Star. Around half have already arrived in Ontario under a cloud of financial uncertainty.
The sponsorship agreements, signed with the government, require sponsors to fund refugees for a minimum of one year after they arrive in Canada.
After his phone call with the confessing priest, Shaleta drove to London and entered Saka into treatment for several days at a non-profit called the Southdown Institute, which helps priests struggling with addictions and behavioral problems.
“It is wrong for a priest to go and gamble,” Shaleta told the Star. “It’s against the rules.”
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