Intercepting God's Mercy
"This is a difficult time. [priest Amer Saka] is a man of God, and he relies on God's mercy and he also asks for privacy during these difficult times."
Iryna Revutsky, lawyer
"We are hoping that if anybody was a victim, or had any dealings with Amer Saka, that they contact us."
"The basis of alleged fraud is unique because it is alleged to have taken advantage of refugees who are using federal-run programs."
Police Constable Sandasha Bough, London, Ontario
|Catholic priest Amer Saka has been charged with fraud after allegedly taking money from people under the guise of sponsorship for refugees coming to Canada. (Facebook)|
Among parishioners of the Chaldean Catholic community in London, Ontario, some -- mostly first-generation immigrants from the Middle East to Canada -- had turned over life savings in an effort to pay for their relatives who had become refugees from Syria. A considerable amount of money -- hundreds of thousands -- had trustingly been turned over to the priest of St. Joseph's Chaldean Catholic church.
And that man was Amer Saka who once confided to a friend he had ministered at one time in his career to those held prisoner at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. At this more recent juncture in his career where he has been accused of absconding with a great deal of money in trusteeship to be used to sponsor and support refugees to Canada he was seen to be "very distressed ... not in a good way", and would be facing a trial and imprisonment.
After a five-month investigation into allegations of money evaporating, investigators felt they had assembled enough evidence to charge Father Saka with fraud valued at over five thousand and possessing the proceeds of property of objects valued at over five thousand. If only it had been a mere $5,000. The fact is that this man of god made the decision of his own free will to take for his own personal use $500,000 that had rested in a refugee trust fund.
But in the church, the faithful have compassion. Parishioners claim to have forgiven this wayward priest. And Bishop Emanuel Shalete is acting as his surety, taking the disgraced transgressor under his wing, so to speak. Father Saka, in huge distress, was evidently treated in hospital for a medical condition whose nature was not disclosed.
Which is fairly typical for people whose serious malfeasance has shocked and disappointed those who had trusted them, becoming ill enough to admit themselves to hospital for treatment and in the process eliciting compassion. For many the hospital of choice is usually a drug or alcohol treatment centre. For this man it appears to be a casino addiction. Such addictions are viewed by many as illnesses.
Which translates to a man suffering an illness not quite being fully responsible for his misdemeanors and thus worthy of compassion. Enter the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese, which has promised to facilitate any sponsorships initiated through Father Saka. All will be well. For the refugees, presumably, for Father Saka perhaps not so much.