Vatican: Iraqi bishops launch appeal to Pope to stop Christians fleeing

vaticaano-200×1501.jpgVatican City, . (AKI) – A delegation of Chaldean bishops launched an appeal to Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday to call for a general synod or church council to create a strategy to prevent Christians from leaving the region.

“The Holy See should think of a general synod for the Middle East for these Christians as these already take place in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said the Chaldean archbishop of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk Luis Sako.

Sako said the church should deal with this problem rapidly before all Christians leave the region.

It is urgent “that the church takes a clear position in regards to the problems, (of the Christian community in the Middle East) otherwise Christians will leave this land,” said Sako.

Sako also stressed that all “Eastern” churches work together with the Vatican to look at issues such as interfaith dialogue with Islam and the role of Christians in politics among others.

“We need the closeness of the church. We have the feeling of being isolated and forgotten,” he said.

Sako also said the church should make its presence felt in the area, something that Muslims also benefit from.

“There is an absence of the church in the area. We need to remember that the church is not only prayer and liturgy.

“Even our Muslim brothers expect something from us, and we are there to help them understand pluralism,” he said.

On behalf of the rest of the delegation, Sako said the problems of the Christians are the same in Lebanon and Palestine. For this reason, all bishops from the region – with the help of the Vatican – must tackle a series of issues together, he argued.

Sako concluded by saying that in the last few years, there has been more than 500 Iraqi Christian ‘martyrs’ who have been killed.

The delegation was composed of the deputy Chaldean bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, and two Syriac-Catholic Iraqi bishops, Georges Casmoussa and Matti Matoka.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, but hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Iraq to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war.