Ahmadiya (AsiaNews) â€“ Priests in Iraq are a â€œsign of hope for the persecuted Churchâ€, but also for national reconciliation; this was the theme at the centre of prayers and reflection shared by 18 Chaldean priests and 4 bishops from the North of the country who spent three days from August 20 to 23 gathered at the retreat centre of KomanÃ© â€“Ahmadiya Diocese â€“ for their spiritual exercises. The Dominican priest Nageeb Merkhael led the retreat.
Co-ordinator Fr.Imad Khochab, gave an account of the three days in an official press release in Arabic. â€œWe focused on the 4 dimensions of the life of a priest â€“ the statement reads â€“ spiritual, intellectual, social and pastoral, in order to renew our image of the priest, of the priestâ€™ service and sacrifice so that he may truly be a sign of hopeâ€. The occasion â€“ continues the statement â€“ allowed us to strengthen our faith and our commitment to our mission despite the difficult circumstances and the sacrificesâ€.
Among the bishops participating in the retreat was Msgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Rabban al Qas, from Ahmadiya, Msgr. Petros Hanna Issa Al-Harboli, from Zahko, Msgr. Mikha Pola Mandassi, from Alqosh.
Speaking to AsiaNews Msgr. Sako said: â€œFor all of us this was a very special moment of prayer and mediation on the situation and our role as a Churchâ€. Among participants there was the shared awareness that: â€œthe Chaldean Church is a persecuted Church, whose strength lies in the power of its faith and its spirit. This is how it conserves its prophetic freedom and its hopeâ€. The archbishop of Kirkuk, had words of admiration for the â€œcourage of young priests who with great personal sacrifice nurture hope and dream of a strong Iraqi Church, which defends human dignity and denounces injustice against the weakest members of society. A Church called to work for peace and reconciliationâ€.
On the sidelines of the spiritual exercises the 4 bishops decided also made some technical decisions, such as how to adopt the salary system: the diocese will finance the work and travel of priests within and outside of their own parishes, This procedure â€œfrees the priest from material concerns and safeguards his dignity, allowing him to completely dedicate himself to his missionâ€.
Moreover, in the aftermath of the retreat in KomanÃ¨ a series of conferences on theological, liturgical and pastoral themes has been planned, so that the priests may â€œabsorb all that is new, putting it to work in their service and unify, as far as possible, the various points of view of the different aspects of the 5 Northern diocesesâ€.