the Synod of the Chaldean Church and Iraqi Christians at risk of ‘disappearing’

From August 21 to 27, the meeting of the bishops with Patriarch Sako is celebrated in Baghdad. In the opening speech, there was a new cry of alarm about the future of the community. The Islamic heritage makes Christians “second-class citizens.” The appeal to the political class asking for a new executive capable of responding to the challenges facing the country. The examination of conscience on the exercise of authority even in the Church: “The concept of leadership in the East does not help spread the culture of asking for forgiveness.”

Baghdad () – Iraqi Christians, and also those of other Middle Eastern nations, are headed for “disappearance” if there is not a “change” in the way of thinking and in government, social and economic policies. In his introductory speech to the Synod of the Chaldean Church, which is being held from August 21 to 27 in Baghdad, the Primate and Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako launches a new cry of alarm about the future of the community in a land of which they are a original component. “The Islamic heritage,” warns the cardinal, “turns Christians into second-class citizens” and tolerates “the usurpation of their property.” That is why the basic rules of coexistence must be rewritten, starting with the Constitution, according to the principles and ideals affirmed by Pope Francis in Iraq in March 2021.

The Chaldean Patriarch, greeting the bishops and personalities present at the Synod, addressed other essential issues: ecclesial responsibility; the strength of the Church, which consists in service; accompaniment with a fatherly spirit; priestly and monastic vocations, male and female; the liturgy. On the opening day, the bishops also appealed to Iraqi politicians, in which they recalled the 20 years of violence and instability and the current stagnation, with “negative” repercussions on the economy and society. Hence the request to “accelerate” the formation of a new executive, capable of promoting the necessary reforms.

Next, Patriarch Sako’s speech. translation:

Once again, this year the annual synod summons us, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Our synod is part of the reflection of the Catholic Church on synodality in view of the Synod of 2023, walking together in communion and mission. May this occasion help us to deepen these points in our Church, diocese and parishes.

1. We are called to assume our ecclesial, human and national responsibility in the spirit of Christ. This includes a living and passionate relationship with Jesus, by whom we have been sanctified, as he sanctified himself: “And for them I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth…so that love may be in them” (John 17:19, 26). This relationship with Christ, based on truth, charity and the Spirit, allows us, and our faithful, a mature spirituality, and encourages us to fulfill our mission with generosity and selflessness, far from particularism and the desire for domination and fame.

2. The strength of the Church, and of the dioceses, is found in service and not in demonstration as such. Administration cannot be exercised without power, but it must not lead to despotism and dictatorship. For this reason, Jesus warns: “You know that those who are held as chiefs of the nations dominate them as absolute lords and their great ones oppress them with their power. But it must not be so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Mk 10,42-43).

The concept of leadership in the East does not help spread the culture of asking for forgiveness!

Our authority is based on being apostles, through collegiality, which extends to all members of the People of God (the Church), priests, monks and nuns, laity, without distinction of sex and social class, united in the work of the Church, although the responsibility for decisions rests on our shoulders. This opens new horizons for us, especially in these difficult (and challenging) conditions that our country is going through. The bishop must know how to read the signs of the times and value them in the light of faith, as the prophets and apostles did when announcing the Gospel, so that the cries of God can become a source of hope.

3. The fatherly spirit in accompaniment of our helpers, that is, of our priests. Paternal, non-authoritarian accompaniment: as is done with children, treating them in a humane way and with charity, with respect, safeguarding their dignity, but fulfilling their charism with the study, formation and sanctification of souls. Hence the need to educate their spirituality, culture and pastoral work. It is unacceptable that there are divisions: this is the greatest danger for the unity of the diocese and the priestly testimony. When this happens, it must be approached delicately: face to face. There will always be difficulties and problems, as in the days of the apostles, but these must become opportunities for the development of charity, friendship and the strengthening of trust. Discipline is important, because disorder is destructive.

4. Importance of priestly and monastic vocations. The future of our Church is based on vocations (priestly, monastic in all their types). It is an obligation for the bishop to give priority to vocations.

5. the liturgy. It is mandatory to abide by the norms established by the Chaldean Synod in relation to our most authentic Eastern identity. The celebrating priest must understand that the rites are a prayer, not just a rigid and monotonous practice; that is, who prays must live the rite. These rites are the celebration of the presence of God, the priest and the faithful must discover it and take advantage of it with a theological depth. That is why the readings, the vestments, the hymns, the music, the prayers, the homilies must be prepared, as the Synod has indicated. Bearing in mind the above, I would like to draw your attention to the need to encourage our priests who serve in diaspora countries to, to the best of their ability, develop relationships with the other Apostolic Churches, especially with our Christian migrants. of Iraq and the countries of the Middle East.

6. Iraqi Christians, and perhaps those of other nations as well, are headed for extinction if there is no change in thought and the national system. The Islamic heritage turns Christians into second-class citizens and allows usurpation of their property. There are many examples. We must rewrite the constitution and laws, moving away from nepotism and favoritism, and building a democratic system based on citizenship. In these difficult times, our mission is to collaborate with our compatriots to create a favorable environment to live with respect for diversity, the right to full citizenship, as Pope Francis affirmed in his speeches during his visit to our country (5- May 8, 2021). We have to help our people to open themselves to hope and arm themselves with faith, to face challenges with the same courage as Christ.

* Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans and President of the Iraqi Episcopal Conference



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