Chaldean patriarch scolds ‘little empire’ priests SAKO

Taking a leaf out of Pope Francis’s book, the new head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has rebuked priests who do not focus on the spiritual care of their people.

In a pastoral letter from his patriarchal see in Baghdad, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako warned that some priests “have turned their parishes in little empires”.

Others, he said, “have left Iraq without the bishop’s permission, have applied for political asylum or have left their church and joined another church.

“Some do not celebrate Mass except on Saturdays and Sundays. Some do not preach or, when they do, they turn their homilies into insults or requests for money.”

Echoing recent statements by Pope Francis, the patriarch emphasized that priesthood “is a mission, not a profession or a business”.

He said the priest “is the human lung which purifies the sins with the air of Divine Grace” and “his success in the work is the result of the infinite power of God and not the result of his individual performance”.

The Chaldean patriarch expressed his appreciation and agratitude for “the majority” of the priests of his church.

In his letter, the patriarch referred to vacancies in several of Iraq’s episcopal sees, the lack of security and the state of perpetual socio-political emergency.

He said these “have also had an impact on the identity of priests and their spirituality”, creating a “situation that cannot continue” and must be tackled resolutely.

In a synodal assembly held in Baghdad from June 5 to 10, the Chaldean bishops reiterated that no priest can leave his diocese without the bishop’s permission.

Chaldean Catholics separated from the Church of the East (also known as the Nestorian Church) in 1552. Most members are in Iraq (where they are the largest Christian church) and Iran, with a refugee Iraqi community in Jordan and emigrant communities as far away as Australia and New Zealand.