Patriarch Sako speaks to the media in 2021 Patriarch Sako speaks to the media in 2021  (ANSA)

European governments express support for Patriarch Sako and Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq

Representatives from eleven European countries affirm their support for Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, the head of Iraq’s Chaldean Church, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, in their efforts to protect the rights of Christians in the country.

By Joseph Tulloch

Eleven different European countries, together with the European Union, released a statement on Sunday evening affirming their support for Iraq’s Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako and Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq.

The Patriarch – who heads the country's Chaldean Church, and was made a Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2018 – has faced criticism over comments concerning political representation for Iraq’s ancient Christian minority.

Sunday’s statement expressed the European governments’ “solidarity” with Patriarch Sako, and stressed the importance of his “efforts to protect the rights of Christians on the soil that they inhabit for two millennia.” 

The statement

On Sunday evening, Patriarch Sako received a delegation of ambassadors and deputy ambassadors including those from France, Italy, the Holy See, Spain, the UK, and the European Union.

Together, they issued a statement in support of the Patriarch, with the approval of the ambassadors of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, and Hungary.

In the statement, the ambassadors to Iraq note that they had visited the Cardinal “to express our solidarity regarding the recent public attacks against his person and our concern for the Christians and other religious communities of Iraq.”

They also praise the Patriarch’s and Archbishop Leskovar's “efforts to protect the rights of Christians on the soil that they have inhabited for two millennia.” 

The statement then goes on to appeal to the country’s Christians to work together, noting that “the existing contrasts do not help their role in the Iraqi society”, and expressing the wish that “problems be overcome and ever greater cooperation among the Churches be achieved.”

The ambassadors conclude their note by reaffirming their support for Iraq's religious diversity.

"We also observed that the existing contrasts among Christians do not help their role in the Iraqi society, and expressed the wish that problems be overcome and ever greater cooperation among the Churches be achieved," note the ambassadors' statement. "We also ensured our support to that aim and emphasised our attachment to creating an understanding and a peaceful dialogue among the different components of the Iraqi people and to the preservation of the Country's diversity, which is one of its main assets."

The conflict

Criticism of Patriarch Sako began after he expressed concern over the Babylon Movement, a political party which claims to represent Iraq's Christian minority.

The Movement currently occupies four of the five parliamentary seats which the Iraqi constitution guarantees to Christians.

Patriarch Sako, however, together with other Christian figures, has said that its claims to be affiliated with the Chaldean Church are bogus, and that it does not represent the country's Christians. Members of the Babylon Movement were at the forefront of recent criticism against Patriarch Sako. 

It is not just European governments who have come to the Patriarch's defence. On 8 May, the Prime Minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan region vowed his support for the Chaldean leader, emphasising the need to “improve the situation of Christians” in the country. 

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15 May 2023, 12:46