A catholic priest in southern Ontario is in the hot seat as Canadian Police launched an investigation over his alleged gambling away nearly $380,000 dollars that have been allocated for refugees. Father Amer Saka told Bishop Emanuel Shaleta that a significant amount of money earmarked for refugees had disappeared. The bishop asked the priest how to which the priest said, "Gambling."
Bishop Shaleta immediately suspended Father Saka upon hearing his confession. The bishop said: "We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose."
Father Saka is currently a priest at the St Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ontario. The Chaldean Catholic church represents Catholics from Iraq as well as parts of Syria, Turkey and Iran, and is overseen by the Vatican.
The police in the city had confirmed that an investigation over the missing funds has been launched and that no charges have been laid as of yet as the allegations have not yet been proven in court.
Bishop Shaleta said that the priest's confession has yet to be established by investigators. He said, "Maybe this money is gambled, maybe it's lost or it's been given to someone. Even if he said it, you have to prove it."
The bishop said that the money was not given to the church. Instead, it was given to the priest by members of the parish to aide in bringing their relatives to Canada, many of which are refugees. The money that has been gambled was given under a private sponsorship program. Its aim is to cover expenses for newcomers by assisting them so they can settle in their new lives.
"This money was not donations, nor a fund collected for refugees," said Shaleta.
An investigation by the diocese shows that more than $300,000 had gone missing.
"It's not just finances. It's a matter of helping them get settled into the country and feeling at home here. We're committed to doing that, but how that's going to be done exactly, is a learning curve."
Father Saka was taken to Southdown Institute, a facility that provides voluntary treatment for priests who have addictions and mental health issues.