by Louis Raphael I Sako*
From May 12 to 24 last, Mar Sako made a pastoral visit to Tehran and Urmia, in Iran, meeting Christian and Muslim political and religious figures. His Beatitude stressed the historic presence of Christians in Iran, a presence that precedes Islam. He invited the faithful to “stay close to your country” and reminds them “strength is in quality and not in number.”
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – ” you are Iranians and not a foreign community descended from another planet “; this is why “we invite you to stay close to your country,” to those lands inhabited by Christians “before the arrival of Islam.” This is one of the passages of the letter sent by his Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, to the Chaldean communities in Iran, at the conclusion of the recent pastoral visit (photo taken from the website of the Chaldean Patriarchate a time of the visit). In the two-week visit the Chaldean Patriarch met with the faithful of the diocese of Tehran and Urmia, meeting local faithful, priests and nuns and bishops but also political authorities and Muslim religious figures.
In the pastoral letter, sent to AsiaNews, he speaks of the visit as a source of “great satisfaction”, because “we have learned a lot from this trip.” The patriarch stresses the faith, firmness and hope of the Chaldean communities in Iran, able also to preserve values ??and traditions, such as the language itself. Mar Sako also notes the “peace and stability” that Iranian Christians can enjoy “in your beloved country” and the “positive dialogue” with “the government and religious authorities.”
Here, below, a letter addressed by His Beatitude to the Chaldean Christians in Iran after the pastoral visit May 12 to 24 year 2015:
Dear Bishops, priests, Religious and Sisters and Brothers
“Grace and peace from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Rm. 1,7
We were very pleased with our visit to you from 12th -24th May. It has taught us a lot. You are always in our prayers. We thank God. Meeting you in Teheran and in Urmia filled our hearts with joy and gratitude for your faith, steadfastness, hope, love and for keeping your Christian values and traditions including our Chaldean language. Thank you.
We thank God for the peace and stability that your are enjoying in your beloved country Iran, and we thank the government and religious authority whom we met, we thank them for their kind reception and positive dialogue.
Beloved sisters and brothers,
Remember that you are descendants of martyrs and saints. In the cathedral of Urmia there are the remains of 4000 martyrs killed in 1918. They are a blessing and a force for you. St. Paul says in his Epistle to Romans, and to you today: “If the first fruits are holy, so is the whole batch of dough; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans11, 16). Blessed are you!
We invite you also to be attached to your country; you are Iranians and not a foreign community descended from another planet. You were there before the arrival of Islam, Christians were the majority, and your church was called the Church of Persia, and today you are a minority, but we felt that everyone is respecting you. Though you are a small community in number, you are as strong as the early church. We are confident that you will grow. Strength is in quality and not in number. You are the light, the salt and the yeast. Your future is a daily act of faith. Do not be afraid as Jesus repeats in the Gospel.
Dear ones, Let the grace and peace fill your hearts along with the blessings of the Lord.
* Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and president of the Iraqi Bishops’ Conference