Pope Francis to Chaldean Synod: Unity and peace for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East

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Pope Francis received the bishops and the Iraqi diaspora, led by Patriarch Sako in audience this morning. He spoke of his hopes for a solution to the problems of the Chaldean Church, confrontation and fellowship. Opening the synod session, Patriarch Sako asks his fellow bishops to address the problems with “humility and openness to the Spirit”.

Rome (AsiaNews) – An exhortation to “work tirelessly as builders of unity in all the provinces of Iraq, fostering dialogue and cooperation among all those engaged in public life “; and the need for constant prayer so that “Christians are not forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East” even in the face of violence and persecution.

These are some significant passages of the speech given by Pope Francis to the patriarch and the bishops of the Chaldean Church and the Iraqi diaspora, gathered in Rome Oct. 24 to 29 for their Synod.

The Pope received them in audience, led by the Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako, who also participated in the recent Synod on the family. “Your visit,” he added, enables me to renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community to adopt every useful strategy aimed at bringing peace to countries terribly devastated by hatred, so that the life-giving breeze of love will once more be felt in places which have always been a crossroads for peoples, cultures and nations”.

The Chaldean Church is experiencing a time of difficulty exacerbated by the war that has ravaged Syria and Iraq, countries where most of the faithful live. However, violence and conflicts have favored an exodus, of biblical proportions, that has more than halved the Christian population of the region. Added to this are tensions between the patriarch and priests (and monks) of the diaspora, who left Iraq without the permission of their bishop or religious superior.

Addressing the synod, Pope Francis recalled the ” beloved lands of Iraq and Syria in this particularly troubled and sensitive moment, “, hoping that ” God’s mercy soothe the wounds of war afflicting the heart of your communities”. The Pope spoke of the “fanatic” hatred of terrorism, which “continues to cause a great hemorrhage of faithful ” undermining “the foundations the vital Christian presence in the land”, with “numerous examples of persecution, even to martyrdom.”

Francis goes on to mention “the needs of the faithful of the diaspora,” who feel ” who are desirous to maintaining their solid roots while becoming part of new situations”. And addressing the participants in the Synod he called on them to be “builders of unity” and a source of “dialogue” and “cooperation” among “all those involved in public life.” Moreover, the Pope warned that the Synod is a “journeying together” and a time ” a favorable moment of exchange amid the diversities ” enriching “the fraternal communion among yourselves” working “with mercy, humility, patience and mutual acceptance that creates communion. ”

The pope, without explicitly mentioning the conflicts within the Chaldean Church called for “sense of responsibility” and ” a genuine kenosis, a self-basement and self-spoliation” to “bridge distances and discern the response to be given to the pressing needs of the Chaldean Church today, in your native lands and in the diaspora. In this way the reflections which emerge from your discussions will be able to provide fruitful solutions to your current needs and points of convergence for resolving liturgical and more general issues. ”

The Synod of the Chaldean Church was originally scheduled for September 22 in Ankawa, a Christian district of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Assembly was later moved to Rome, at the end of October, to allow bishops from Canada, USA and Australia participate. Among the central themes of the Synod communion and unity among dioceses, inside and outside Iraq. And yet, the tragedy of the tens of thousands of families who have fled their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh plain, with the advance of the Islamic State (IS), as well as the dispute between the patriarch and a group of monks and priests who have left in the past years to seek refuge in the countries of the diaspora and, in particular, in a diocese of the United States. The goal of Mar Sako is to give hope to Christians and Muslims, thanks to a strong and dynamic of the Chaldean Church and to renew the liturgy.

Inaugurating the Synod, the Chaldean patriarch had a a message for the bishops present: “I know that each of us is immersed in the problems of his diocese, but each diocese is an important part of the Chaldean Church. Your concerns are the concerns of each of us and the concerns of the patriarch. ” March Sako asked the Iraqi bishops and the diaspora to “leave aside the gossip and chatter”, to face problems with “humility and openness to the Spirit” in an attempt to find a “solution”.