Archbishop Louis Sako, who has headed the Chaldean Catholic archdiocese of Kirkuk, Iraq, since 2003, has been elected the new Patriarch of Babylon and worldwide leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
The 64-year-old Iraqi prelate was elected this week by the Synod of the Chaldean Church, meeting in Rome this week, and Pope Benedict XVI quickly granted his request for full ecclesiastical communion.
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, as he will be known, succeeds the retired Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who retired in December at the age of 85 after 9 years as head of the Chaldean Church.
The newly elected Patriarch said that he would work to preserve the vigor of the Chaldean Church, but especially to protect the future of the ancient Christian community centered in Iraq, which has been decimated by emigration, as young Iraqi Christians seek to escape from a campaign of intimidation by Islamic militants. “There is no stability and the security is getting worse,” the Patriarch told Vatican Radio. “Everybody is worried.”
The Iraqi prelate has frequently spoken about the threat to the Christian presence in Iraq, but vowed that the Chaldean community would remain active in spite of threats. He has pleaded for Christians in the West to show their solidarity with the suffering Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
A native of Mosul, Iraq, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako was ordained to the priesthood in 1974. After earning two doctorates–first at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, then at the Sorbonne in Paris—he returned to pastoral work in Mosul. He spent 5 years as rector of the Patriarchal Seminary in Baghdad before being chosen as Archbishop of Kirkuk in 2003.