The Syriacs (Catholics and Orthodox) are the descendants of the Syriac Antioch Church, whose origins, according to its ecclesiastical tradition, go back to the first apostles of Christ. The Syriacs originated in Antioch located in southern Turkey. They are distinguished in their Syriac mother tongue that originated as one of the Aramaic dialects in the city of Edessa. The Syriacs then spread throughout the cities of Edessa, Mardin and Tur Abdin and resided mainly in northern Iraq, south-eastern Turkey, and north-eastern Syria.
During the final third of the eighteenth century, a large portion of Syriacs joined the Catholic community, with the Patriarch Mar Ignatius Michael Jaroua who was elected in Aleppo and formed the Syriac Antiochian Catholic Church.
The Syriac Catholics mainly exist in the Middle East region in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and there are few remaining in Turkey. Due to wars and in search of the necessities for a decent living, several Syriac Catholics migrated, just like members from the Eastern Churches, to Sudan and Egypt, then to western countries such as Europe, North America, South America, Central America, Australia and New Zealand.
In the middle of the 20th century, Syriacs immigrants began to come to Australia from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and then Iraq. As the Syriac community grew in Australia, there was a need to establish a mission for the Syriac Catholic Church in Australia.
The Syriac Catholic Church in Sydney / Australia was founded in August 1985 by Monsignor Michael Berbari, who came from Egypt. The first Mass was celebrated according to the Syriac Catholic Rite in the Armenian Catholic Church, and then the Syriac community in Sydney shared St. Peter Chanel Church in Berala for the celebration of the Masses. Accordingly, Monsignor Berbari took up residence in the presbytery in Berala. In 1991, Monsignor Berbari, in collaboration with the parishioners, bought a small church located in Concord, from the Protestant Church of Christ. It was renovated and opened in 1994 and carried out numerous renovations over a period of 25 years.
From 2004 to 2007, the Church in Concord was closed due to renovations for the Church hall and other amenities, hence during this period, the Syriac community were celebrating Mass at St. Therese’s Catholic Church in Fairfield Heights. At the end of 2007, the Church and renovated hall at Concord were reopened. The Syriac community then commenced celebrating Mass at both churches, Our Lady of Mercy at Concord, and St. Therese’s Catholic Church at Fairfield Heights.
Due to Monsignor Michael Berbari (Chorbishop) health issues and old age, the Syriac Catholic Church was in need to designate another priest as his assistant. In 2008, coming from Syria, Father Rahal Dergham arrived at Sydney/Australia. He continued serving as an assistant priest until mid-2016 when he submitted his resignation.
Prior to Father Dergham’s resignation, an agreement was made to designate another priest to serve the Syriac Catholic community, especially as the number of immigrant families arriving from Iraq has increased due to ISIS crises.
On 4th of February 2015, coming from Baghdeda (North of Iraq), Father Lenard Ina (known as Father Youhanna Ina) arrived to Sydney/Australia, whom had an important role and influence in the prosperity of the Syriac Church, especially after taking over the responsibility of Mission’s management during mid-2016 following Father Dergham’s resignation.
He worked diligently and persistently in cooperation with the Apostolic Visitor in Australia and New Zealand, His Excellency Archbishop Mar Basilius Jirjees Casmoussa, especially in the office administrative dimension of the Church, also the pastoral work in all its spiritual, ritual, social and service aspects. The efforts were paid off in cooperation with the parishioners to purchase land in Kemps Creek area, Southwest of Sydney, with an area of 14,000 Square meters. Also, a house was donated by a parishioner to the Church, hence a Presbytery was established, located in Fairfield West, Western Sydney.
Among the pastoral groups and activities that exist in the Mission:
• Deacons & Subdeacons Group
• St. Ephrem’s Choir
• St. Behnam and Sarah Syriac Youth (Ages 18-35)
• St. Joseph Syriac Youth (Ages 12-17)
• St. Ephrem Catechist Saturday School (Ages 5-11)
• Weekly Bible studies
• Financial Committee
• Secretarial Office
At the beginning of the year 2020, the Syriac Catholic Church welcomed a new Deacon arriving from Iraq, Mr Majid Al Hanna, to assist and help Father Lenard Ina in serving the Syriac Catholic Parish in Sydney with three weekly Sunday Mass Services and also serving the Syriac Catholic Parish in Canberra with Sunday Mass Service once a month.
The Syriac Catholic Church in Sydney is seeking to build a large church to receive its 700 parishioner families who are residing in the Western Sydney and South Western Sydney, and to be able to provide them with better pastoral services.