Franciscan University Enters into Agreement with Catholic University of Erbil, Iraq
December 6, 2019
Fr. Dave Pivonka & Archbishop Bashar Warda signing

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, left, and Most Reverend Bashar Matti Warda, archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, sign the memorandum of understanding.


STEUBENVILLE, OHIO — Stronger ties between the Catholic university communities of Erbil, Iraq, and Steubenville, Ohio, were forged December 6 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the leaders of both universities.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, CSsR, the Chaldean bishop of Erbil, Iraq, who founded the Catholic University of Erbil, and Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the mutual benefit of the two schools and ultimately, the people of Iraq and America.

Archishop Warda called the agreement “a blessing, because during the time of persecution when everyone is thinking that’s the end of the world, now some doors have opened to help the Church in Iraq not just survive but thrive.”

The agreement includes cultural exchanges between the two schools, such as the visit this past September by eight Iraqi high school students to Steubenville. The agreement also paves the way to develop language courses in Arabic and Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus) to be offered to Franciscan University students, the pursuit of scholarship funding for Iraqi students to study at Franciscan University, both online and on campus, and Skype sessions between students at Franciscan University and the Catholic University of Erbil.

“The Christian church has been decimated in Iraq,” said Father Pivonka. “But the men and women of Iraq are people of great faith who have the desire to learn more about their faith and a desire to be educated, and we are excited to help in any way we can.”

During his visit, Archbishop Warda, who was born in Baghdad, spoke to Franciscan students. He described the most recent persecutions of Christians in his country and invited them to be missionaries for St. Thomas the Apostle Mission, which seeks college graduates from the U.S. to serve at Maryamana Catholic Hospital and at the Christian college and secondary school in Erbil, teaching a variety of subjects. For more information, contact Darine Rassam at Catholic University in Erbil at

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