by Louis Raphael Sako*
Card Sako and the bishops approve a new missal to respond to the challenges imposed by modernity. A renewal to take up the demands of the faithful and promote the understanding of the many faithful of Islam who follow Christian services. Mass “is not a museum, but a common heritage to speak to the people”.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Church, at the instigation of the Chaldean patriarch and the bishops, has recently renewed its liturgy. The decision was made to meet the demands of modernity, in response to the renewed needs of the faithful and to be understood by a Muslim world that watches and assists with growing interest in the celebrations.
In this message entrusted to AsiaNews, Card Louis Raphael Sako explains the motivations for the renewal:
The renewal of philosophy and science is a necessary, vital and legitimate natural state due to the change of people, time, mentality, culture and circumstances. In the religious field, it should represent a priority because much has changed – especially in recent times – following the influence of social media that have transformed the world into a small digital village. This is why the renewal of religious discourse has become an urgent and essential requirement.
In this sense, the Church cannot be a prisoner of ancient traditions and a rigid heritage based on indoctrination and memorization. It must bring the good news of the Gospel to every time and place, responding to the missionary call. The Church is open to the world with a more pragmatic and holistic spirit, its main feature is ecumenism, it is not for a specific people, a specific gender, a specific language, a specific geography, but it is for everyone!
1) The Eastern Catholic Churches are Churches sui iuris, that is, they have a structure (the Synod) for the governance of their internal life. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches was created a century ago, to help these realities to develop, not to give orders or cancel the decrees of a patriarch or of the Synod as there is unanimity within it. This is what is a source of shock for the Orthodox Churches, not the liturgical updating which today is a pastoral and spiritual need. An Assyrian bishop has taken copies of the new missal and hopes that they too will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to make a reform. On February 9, we Eastern Catholic Patriarchs met Pope Francis and expressed our difficulties to him. He replied: “When the light is red it is hard to move forward”. Today our bishops are all graduates, prepared and are aware of the pastoral challenges.
2) In the Chaldean Church there are three anaphoras: the first of Addai and Mari, towards the third century; the second by Nestorius and the third by Theodore of Mopsuestia. The latter two are of Byzantine tradition, long and characterized by a complex vocabulary that is difficult to understand for our culture. For years now there have been no liturgies celebrated with these last two anaphoras.
3) Given the change in the culture and sensitivity of the people who are educated today, together with the bishops we have tried to update the rites based on the Second Vatican Council to help our faithful to participate in the liturgy and live what they pray. A step that follows in the footsteps of what the Latin Church has already done. We do not have two criteria in the Church. Saint Chrysostom says that the liturgy is for man, not the other way around.
4) At the Synod in Rome in 2005, the committee formed to implement the liturgical update presented us with the anaphora of Addai and Mari. The bishops made several proposals but the President of the Committee had promised to include our observations in the text and this is why we signed it before its publication. However, the president did not insert our indications or our observations, keeping the original text. Hence the unanimous decision of all the prelates and of the then patriarch Emmanuel Delly not to celebrate with this new missal. This was not what we wanted and asked for as bishops for our Church. It was a serious problem!
5) At the time of my election as Chaldean patriarch I immediately had liturgical reform at heart, a task assumed in communion with the bishops because our people no longer understand the Syriac language and its vocabulary. Mass is not a museum, but a common heritage to talk to people. We also took into consideration Muslims who follow our celebrations on television or on social networks. In recent years great work has been done on updating the anaphora of Addai and Mari, the second of Nestorius and we have also prepared a new shorter and more dynamic anaphor of “St. Thomas”, with alternating prayers, inspired by our liturgy, theology, spirituality. Theodore’s third anaphor remains valid for those who want to celebrate, but I don’t think they will do so in terms of length and vocabulary. I hope that in the Synods to come we will make a further reform; all the bishops have signed unanimously. From Sunday we began to celebrate with this missal, putting an end to the confusion. With this work we have sought the spiritual good of the faithful, who face many problems, especially emigration. For the first time the missal is in Syriac, Arabic, English and Chaldean dialect.
* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and president of the Iraqi Bishops’ Conference