NEWS
03/03/2016 14:26 EST | Updated 03/04/2017 00:12 EST

Liberal MP Eva Nassif related to bishop chosen to lead Syriac Catholics in Canada

The federal government's commitment to fast track the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees caught the attention of Pope Francis who has appointed a new bishop to Canada.

The Vatican announced in January the appointment of Rev. Antoine Nassif from Lebanon as its first Apostolic Exarch to lead Syriac Catholics in Canada.

The recently ordained bishop happens to be a distant cousin of Liberal MP Eva Nassif, who represents the riding of Vimy in Laval, Que.

The Liberal MP said she didn't know the two were related until a couple of priests from Saint-Éphrem parish in Laval called during an overseas trip where they attended the bishop's ordination.

"They called me from Lebanon to tell me that the bishop was trying to reach me," Nassif said in a phone interview with CBC News on Thursday.

"He wants to talk to you, he knows you, he knows your family," one of the priests told her, much to her surprise.

The Liberal MP said she met the new bishop for the first time a couple of weeks ago when he first arrived in Canada.

Laval was chosen as the new bishop's home because it's one of the communities resettling many of the Syrian refugees and their families, the Liberal MP said.

Saint-Éphrem parish was packed this past Sunday when the new bishop was welcomed at an inauguration ceremony by his aunt who lives in Canada, the Liberal MP, extended members of her family, and members of other religious communities.

The MP for Vimy made her excitement known by posting some pictures of her and the new bishop on social media.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend the inauguration ceremony in Laval but did send the new bishop a message through his MP.

"It is with immense pleasure that I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Monseigneur Paulos Antoine Nassif on the occasion of his appointment as the Apostolic Exarchate for Syriac Catholics in Canada," Trudeau said in a written statement that was read at the ceremony on Sunday.

Nassif announced the new bishop's appointment during a statement in the House of Commons prior to question period last Thursday.

"Canada's contribution to this humanitarian crisis has not gone unnoticed and I am very pleased to collaborate with Monseigneur Nassif to help the Syrian community in Vimy," Nassif said.