A priest from the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ontario, is under investigation after telling his bishop he lost more than $500,000, intended to aid incoming refugees, to gambling, reported the Toronto Star.
The Star says Reverend Amer Saka called Bishop Emanuel Shaleta and confessed to the shocking act on Feb. 23.
“He called me on the phone and … said he lost all the money. I said. ‘How?’ He said, ‘Gambling,'” Shaleta told the star on March 26.
“We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose,” he said. “Since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he’s saying.”
Shaleta immediately suspended Saka from Canada’s first and only Chaldean jurisdiction, then drove him to a priest-specific treatment facility north of Toronto that is for battling problems such as addiction, depression, and sexual abuse.
There has yet to be any charges filed since nothing has been proven, but police told the Star that an investigation is being conducted, hoping bank records will provide more evidence.
The Chaldean Catholic Church is a Baghdad-based sect of the Roman Catholic Church, which represents catholics from Iraq and nearby countries.
Several Chaldean churches, including St. Joseph’s, were founded with Pope Benedict’s blessing less than five years ago, as Canada welcomed Iraqi immigrants.
Saka was in charge of raising funds to sponsor incoming Iraqi refugees—roughly $6,000 per person, and about $20-25,000 per family.
Churches involved with the sponsorship program must support refugees for at least one year after their arrival—but fearing the collapse of the financial backing, officials within the program say the refugees may now feel vulnerable.
“It is wrong for a priest to go and gamble. It’s against the rules,” Shaleta told the Star.