A Catholic priest in Canada is under investigation for allegedly gambling away hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to support Christian refugees from Iraq.
Father Amer Saka is under investigation after telling Bishop Emanuel Shaleta that he had gambled the money away, The Toronto Star reports.
"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 about a conversation he said took place on Feb. 23.
Shaleta told the Star: "We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose. Since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he’s saying."
Saka was then taken for several days of treatment at a facility north of Toronto.
Police in London confirmed they received a complaint of financial misappropriation related to the parish at London's St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church, and said an investigation is currently ongoing.
The Chaldean Catholic Church is formally based in Baghdad and represents Catholics in several neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The church ultimately falls under the authority of the Holy See.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton runs the refugee sponsorship for which the funds were intended. Its chancellor, Monsignor Murray Kroetsch, identified Saka as the leader of the group raising money for Iraqi refugees.
The Star reports that the diocese had already filed for up to 20 refugees to arrive under Saka's sponsorship.
"We want to assure the refugees that our part of our agreement is looked after and that money will be provided to help them feel secure and help them find their footing in the country," said Monsignor Kroetsch.