by Louis Raphael I Sako*
On the second anniversary of his election, the Patriarch appeals for the unity of the Eastern Churches and announces the formation of “a joint committee of dialogue”. He recalls the “joyful mission” to “witness” the Gospel “to the world today.” Finally, Mar Sako appeals for Christians to “remain” close to the suffering of “our displaced brothers and sisters of all denominations.”
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Seeking “the unity of the Church of the East in all its branches”; the formation of a joint committee of dialogue”; because it is a Christian’s duty to foster “unity and be ecumenical” and the challenge of “unity in love”. This is the message that his Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, wants to launch through AsiaNews two years after his election as Chaldean Patriarch, on 31 January 2013. In a pastoral letter published on the occasion of his second anniversary, Mar. Sako relaunches the commitment to ‘unity between the Churches of the East, often divided and marked by ancient conflicts and deep lacerations”. Our identity – he says – is an integral part of a Chaldean Catholic Church and the Universal Church, a mission and a joyful witness to the Gospel in today’s world”.
In the message, the Chaldean Patriarch warns against hiding behind the cloak “of nationalism, politics or partisanship” because “all this would lead the Church to lose its ecclesial Christian identity!”. He calls for unity “in the same vocational journey” and, in a difficult time, ensures that the Church “will emerge stronger and more pure.” Finally, Mar Sako appeals for people to “remain close to our forcefully displaced brothers from all denominations who are suffering, they are worried and scared”; and asks to pray “for the Church, for peace in Iraq and in the region”.
Here, below, the message sent to AsiaNews by the Chaldean Patriarch:
Beloved daughters and sons of the Chaldean Church, I would like to extend to you a message, in order to mark the second anniversary of the “Cross, which I carry, together with many other brothers and sisters “. I want to express my full love to you, those belonging to the Chaldean Church, and to all Iraqis of all faiths and affiliations.
During the past two years I have learned a lot from many of you, and I got to know many people. I have suffered a lot, and I have also benefited from the criticism, (lessons to learn).
First of all I want to thank all of those who contributed to my learning, for their understanding and their support for what was much accomplished and for the many doors of enlightenment were opened!
What happened -within our Chaldean Community Church- is the natural evolution of the Patriarchal succession, of carrying special existing circumstances of the times and present. The situation has coincided with the acceleration of events in the Iraqi arena and the region, such as comprised displacements, persecutions and emigration. There was no other way but to deal frankly if not squarely with the old and new serious circumstances; the situations in our Church were influenced by intellectual short sightedness, by a lack of spirituality and legal ethic, as well as by inappropriate upbringing. This was also triggered by a bizarre temper and human nature as well as by personal ambitions. We cannot exclude the local inheritance of certain concepts of power, which still reside in some persons from a certain unfortunate sense of tribal superiority and domination, with such mental stance happening instead of projecting a humble, faithful and generous ministry. However, we will persevere in adhering to Evangelical principles and Christian Hope; to transform our Chaldean church in a unified church together with its Clergy and faithful followers. We want this Chaldean Church to be neat and disciplined, powerful, influential but open to get influenced while carrying the principles of charity and transparency, respect for talents and diversity, searching for continuous betterment, and refusing a monolithic or single perspective, individually created here and there which can wrongly isolate entities in their attitude. The church is not a matter to gamble and isolation suicides!
Our Identity comprises A Universal Chaldean Catholic Church, a joyful mission and a witness to the Gospel for the world of today. This Church is not to follow exclusively behind nationalist, political or partisan acts because it would make the Church lose its Christian ecclesiastic identity! Thus we reassure everyone that these difficulties, challenges and pressures which we are facing, will not stop us from cleaning and regenerating the Chaldean Church. Therefor we will adjust its laws according to the canonical criteria and we will strengthen them as the Lord wants, as our people expect, and in the courageous footsteps of Pope Francis, sent by God as an opportune grace.
I do know my responsibility and its obligations, and I know that the administration create supporters and opponents, and the truth has the price, nevertheless I am ready to pursue to no end, since as I am depending on the blessing of God, as well as inspired by the Laws of the Church, while being supported by a sufficient Episcopal consensus as well as being also supported by the existence of a wide base of believers. I will cooperate with all people of good will, and with all churches, seeking in particular the unity of the “Church of the East” in all its branches. This should herald and show that a “joint dialogue committee” will be formed soon. A Christian should be unionist and ecumenical. Unity in love is a challenge!
In this New Year, I call on everyone to read deeply into the past, to learn the lessons shown to us with a degree of high spirituality and open a new page of relationship, free of prejudices. Naturally, rumors and gossiping are not to be believed in or followed; they are just a form of burning out oneself, and aiming to burn the church. I call all to work together as a team, without transforming divergent opinions into conflicts and huff; such an attitude would not worthy of our history and our priesthood in its various orders; let us live our priesthood as supreme message in accordance to the calling of Christ. Being together on the same vocational path, let us love our church and let us strive for its renaissance and for contributing to its resurrection. Let us pray for this intention. Whoever is praying is abiding in Christ. Spiritually it is a hard time for the church, but surely she will come out of it stronger and pure.
The consecration of two new bishops is a sign of renewed hope for the Chaldean Church.
At this time we have to stand strongly with our displaced people of all denominations who are suffering, worried, and frightened. Let us use all our possibilities to raise their spirits, and to nurture hope in their heart. Evil has no future. The storm will certainly pass. We are today, with our experience and belief change agents and active witnesses of Hope. We are guardian of our mission. We are carrying a history and message. Do not let this opportunity pass!
Pray for the church, for peace in Iraq and the region and for the relief of our displaced brothers and sisters through their rapid return to their homes and towns.
May our Lord bless all of you