Chaldean Patriarchate to restore ancient manuscripts, rebuild Christian future

Mar Sako’s initiative is set to restore and return to the public ancient copies of the Sacred Scripture, liturgy, literature and poetry. Such “priceless” heritage laid in a state of neglect. Now, a team of experts led by a Dominican priest is in charge of the work. In an age of divisions, the past can serve as a guide for a better future.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Patriarchate recently uncovered ancient manuscripts, including copies of the Sacred Scripture, exegetic texts, sheets of liturgy, ancient literature and poetry. Such a “priceless heritage of the Iraqi Church”, to quote the Chaldean Patriarch His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, was in a state of neglect and in need of careful restoration and cataloguing, an effort he has strongly supported.

Originally, the documents had been placed in plastic bags and left in a crypt inside the old Patriarchal See in Sinak (central Baghdad). When the See was moved to its current location in Mansoor, north of the capital, the manuscripts were moved as well. However, water leaks, moths and termites have compromise the books’ integrity. At the same time, they were not accessible to neither general public, nor experts and scholars.

Patriarch Sako tasked Fr Najeeb, a Dominican, and his team of experts, with restoring those still salvageable and copy those beyond saving so that the Christian community and experts could study them.

“The manuscripts deal with many different topics,” Mgr Isaac Jacques, auxiliary bishop to Mar Sako, told AsiaNews. Together with the late Fr Butrus Hadad, notary of the Chaldean Patriarchate, Bishop Jacques has already studied some the documents, which range “from Sacred Scripture to the liturgy.”

The manuscripts are an “important part” of the history of the Chaldean Church, because “there is no present, no future, without a past.” This is why the Patriarch and the entire community consider the documents “Church heritage upon which our everyday life depends.”

For them, uncovering and learning about ancient liturgies will be “crucial” for “innovation and change in the future.”

The past is an invaluable source of learning and of examples to teach the “true faith” and “peaceful coexistence between different communities.”

This is an important lesson for today’s Iraq, battered by violence and divisions between Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites.

“Today, even more than in the past, we need to look to the past to build a better future,” Chaldean Patriarchate officials noted.

Mar Sako underscored the for a team of experts, headed by the Dominican priest, to work on preserving as much of the material recovered as possible.

After the work is completed, the texts should be accessible to priests, scholars, experts and researchers.

At the same time, “everyone is responsible and called to contribute to the preservation of this heritage,” the patriarchate noted. For this reason, cultural centres should be set up to “teach our language and history.” (DS)

(Fr Zarazeer Albert, Chaldean Patriarchate communications director, contributed to this article),-rebuild-Christian-future-28397.html