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Valley Priest to Be Bishop of New Diocese : Religion: Pope names North Hollywood clergyman to head North American jurisdiction of Syriac Catholic Church.

November 19, 1995|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A North Hollywood-based clergyman has been named by Pope John Paul II as the first bishop of a new diocese created solely to serve members of the Syriac Catholic Church, the Los Angeles Archdiocese announced Saturday.

Bishop-elect Joseph Younan, who founded the Jesus Sacred Heart Syriac Rite Catholic Church in North Hollywood, will oversee the new jurisdiction that will encompass all of North America and will be based in Newark, N.J.

The Syriac Catholic Church, with about 25,000 members in the United States and Canada, is one of a small number of Eastern churches that did not split with Rome during the great schism of the 11th Century, when the sects that later became known as Orthodox churches refused to accept the Pope as their spiritual leader, explained Father Gregory Coiro, spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Most of the Syriac church's adherents in the United States, Younan said Saturday, are first-generation Middle Eastern immigrants who must deal with the emotional scars of war and social unrest along with the difficult job of getting along in a new country. The familiar rituals of the church, he said, can make the transition easier.

"It is the challenge for all immigrating ethnic groups--to acculturate to the American culture without denying their identity as Middle Eastern Semitic people and Christian people," he said. "Being attached to our very ancient liturgical rites is very helpful."

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Younan will be starting his diocese from scratch, setting up schools and a diocesan center. Among other responsibilities, he will organize missionary efforts to Middle Eastern Catholics who have not become part of the religious community in the United States and Canada.

Until his elevation, Younan held the title of chorbishop in the Syriac church, a position that allowed him to perform some of the duties of a bishop and serve as coordinator of Syriac Catholic priests in North America.

He came to the United States nine years ago from Lebanon, where he worked as a parish priest during the civil war that devastated that country during the 1980s.

He settled first in Newark, where he established Our Lady of Deliverance church for Syriac Catholic immigrants to the United States.

In 1990, he began dividing his time between Newark and North Hollywood. He moved here in 1993, after Jesus Sacred Heart was established.

All told, there are nine churches serving about 25,000 Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada. Prior to the creation of the new Diocese, they were under the jurisdiction of their local Roman Catholic dioceses.

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