Cardinal Sako warns Christians in Iraq risk disappearing
By Lisa Zengarini
The Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Raphael Louis Sako, has warned that Christians in Iraq and in the entire region are heading towards disappearance unless there is a "change" in the way of thinking in governmental, social and economic policies.
He made these remarks at the opening of the Synod of the Chaldean Church taking place in the Iraqi capital from 21-27 August.
In his introductory address, the head of the Chaldean Church noted that the Islamic heritage In Iraq still “makes Christians second-class citizens and allows the usurpation of their property”.
He therefore reiterated the urgent need to change the present Constitution and law in order to “build a democratic system based on citizenship”, and not on religious and ethnic affiliation.
Chaldean Bishops' appeal for reforms
The same call for reforms was addressed on the opening day of the Synod by the body of the Chaldean bishops.
In a joint appeal, the prelates urged Iraqi political leaders to put aside personal and partisan interests so as to speed up the formation of a new government addressing the widespread corruption and the ongoing economic crisis in the country.
Politicians in Iraq have been deadlocked over forming a new government since the elections in October last year. In recent weeks, the standoff has caused renewed unrest and is already taking a toll on the most vulnerable in the context of ongoing international tensions.
Authority in the Church and ecclesial responsibility
In his opening speech at the Synod, Cardinal Sako also addressed other issues which are being discussed during the meeting, including ecclesial responsibilitity and authority in the Church, priestly and religious vocations and liturgy.
With regards to ecclesial responsibility and authority, the Patriarch reminded the Chaldean bishops that responsibility must always be carried out “in the spirit of Christ” and that the “strength of the Church” lies in service to others, and, therefore Church leaderhip should never lead to despotism.
The head of the Chaldean Church further underscored the importance for bishops to accompany their priests in a “paternal” and not “authoritarian” fashion, so as to prevent divisions which are the “greatest danger” to the unity of their dioceses and to priestly witness.
The Patriarch also urged the Chaldean bishops to give priestly and religious vocations the highest priority, as the future of the Church depends on them.
The reform of the Chaldean liturgy
Finally, Cardinal Sako addressed the issue of liturgy, namely the recent changes introduced in the Chaldean Missal which have met some opposition especially from the diaspora.
In this regard, the Patriarch reiterated that the ratio of the reformis to adapt more closely to the needs of the faithful. “The celebrating priest," he said, "must understand that the rites are prayer, not just a rigid and monotonous practice; this means that, he who prays must live the ritual.”