Card. Parolin’s visit to Iraq, celebrating Vigil Mass with Card. Sako
Homely and messages.
His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Rafael Sako celebrated, with H.E. Card. Parolin, the vigil Mass of Christmas on December 24, 2018, the mass was according to the Chaldean Liturgy in St. Joseph Cathedral in Baghdad during the night of 24 Dec. The ceremony was attended by the President of Republic with his wife as well as several minsters and ambassadors, among them the ambassador of USA and the Iranian beside religious authorities: Chiite, Sunnite, Sabean and Yazidi. The president Dr. Barham Salih in his speech at the end of the Mass, congratulated Christians and all Iraqis, thanked the Holy See for the visit of Cardinal Parolin, secretary of the sates and encouraged Christians to stay and to play their role in the reconstruction of Iraq. He focuses on the citizenship and the importance of promoting peace and pacific co-existence. Here under are: the welcoming message of Card. Sako, the homily of Card. Parolin during Vigile Christmas mass in St. Joseph Chaldean Cathedral, as well as his message during his audience with the Iraqi Prime Minister Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako:
Message of greeting at the Vigile Christmas Mass, December 24, 2018
Your Eminence, Card. Parolin
We received the good news of your visit with great pleasure and would like to welcome you warmly for being with us on this blessed week of Christmas 2018. Your presence among us and your prayers with and for us fills us with hope.
It is also my honor to welcome the President of the Republic of Iraq, Dr. Barham Saleh, His Wife, Ministers. Ambassadors and Religious Leaders, who are sharing with us the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Thank you everyone for bringing “Merry Christmas” back to our beautiful nation’s capital. I also thank the Prime Minister, who responded to my request to declare Christmas a national holiday for the all Iraqis.
As Iraqis our faith is traced back to Abraham “the son of this land”, while as Christians we are linked with the Apostle Thomas and his well-known confession of faith: “My Lord and my God” (John 20/28).
Today, we want this faith to re-born in our hearts, enabling us to discover the beauty of faith in the love of God, who never gives up on us.
Words are not enough to thank His Holiness, Pope Francis for being so close to our people, by his loving words and prayers for peace and stability in this part of the world, especially after all the suffering “episodes” that we have been through. I sincerely hope that His Holiness will soon visit our country.
I am confident that each of these visits is contributing “positively” to the whole region, in terms of helping local Church to follow new pastoral strategies; and inviting Government Officials to adopt a clear policy for a better future.
I hope that Christmas 2018 will be an opportunity for all faithful to deepen their faith in God and His Fatherly Love and Care for every one of us. I also call them all to be steadfast in serving love and peace, as stated by Pope Francis in his homily at St. Marta’s Chapel, 2018/12/06. “We must prepare for Christmas to build peace in our souls, family and the world”.
We have learned from the past that divisions, conflicts and violence cannot bring peace, since actual peace can be achieved by loving and respecting “others” based on equality at all levels, which is the right path that leads to peace, progress and prosperity.
On this occasion, I would like to thank our dear fellow Muslims who contributed to decorate Baghdad and most of the Iraqi cities with numerous Christmas lights and trees to reach out to each other, forgive and let the light, joy and hope of our good deeds shine for all.
Finally, it is my pleasure to wish Iraq and the world, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! And a blessed 2019
Visinting Card. Pietro Paroline
Homily at the Vigile Christmas Mass, December 24, 2018
Saint Joseph Chaldean Cathedral, Baghdad
Your Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans,
Dear Bishops and Priests,
Your Excellency, President of the Republic,
Distinguished Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On behalf of His Holiness Pope Francis, I greet you all with great affection, and I thank God for giving me the joy of celebrating the Lord’s birth with you, in your country, rich in biblical references and in history; in your city, so beautiful and so afflicted; in your Cathedral dedicated to the Patriarch Saint Joseph, who from the manger, together with Mary his spouse, looks upon us with a gaze of love and tenderness.
This is Christmas night! A night clothed with light, which every year, while arriving in the same way as all other nights, is always totally new. It is a night similar to so many sleepless nights of the people of the covenant, to so many sleepless nights of your families, who in these years have passed through the hard trial of suffering. At the same time, a night that is different because the proclamation becomes reality, the promises are fulfilled: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). At Christmas, Saint Bernard tells us, “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all (cf. Tit 2:11)…Behold the peace not promised, but sent, not delayed, but given, not foretold, but present” (Homily 1 for the Epiphany).
The scripture readings we have just heard astonish us by their contemporary relevance and by their close connection to our daily lived reality. The prophet Isaiah presents us with a people who experience social and economic conditions marked by fragility, instability, the absence of hope and by fear of what is to come. In the face of such a situation of dilemmas, the joyful proclamation resounds: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:2). The prophet knows that the source of this intense and dazzling light is God, not human beings: it is the light of God which surrounds men and women, penetrates unto the depths of their hearts, illuminates them and causes them to experience joy and peace: “You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (Is 9:3).
It is God alone who can give peace and joy that lasts, fortifying and strengthening them with law and justice! He does this every day: what does it mean to be courageous in living our daily life, in its beautiful aspects and above all in its dark aspects? What does this faith mean, to look forward and this hope against every hope (cf. Rm. 4:18), which is manifested where there is no longer hope, where there is no longer anything to hope for, as happened to Abraham in the face of his impending death and the sterility of his wife Sarah? What is the love which covers all things, believes all things, hopes for all things, bears all things (cf. Rom 13:7) and which makes us live as brothers and sisters, in communion, which makes us capable of accepting all persons with their limits and their merits, as Jesus did, who accepted all those who came to him and wanted to follow him, paying particular attention to the sick and the aged, to the poor and the needy? What is all this? It is the manifestation, the making concrete, of the joy and peace which the Holy Child brings as a gift to all who accept him with an open, simple and humble heart.
By giving us joy and peace the incarnate Son of God answers the most intimate and deepest longing of every human heart. The angels sing in the night at Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk. 2:14). The peace announced by the angelic choir is not the peace which the world gives, as Jesus will say on the night before his passion, during the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). Neither is it the peace obtained by armed force and military victory or by the interests of the global economy. It is the peace of God: a peace which reflects his love for us; a peace which is shown as the capacity to desire the true good of others, overcoming what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of indifference”. It is a peace which knows how to see in another person a brother or sister to love and to help even when they reveal themselves to be our enemy. It is a peace which is handed on by the purification of every expression of hatred and violence from our language, a peace which is handed on through the reconciliation of minds and hearts. “Light given to our minds, peace poured into our hearts,” as the very famous Christmas carol Silent Night says, which was composed exactly two hundred years ago in Austria and which has spread throughout the whole world, as also among you, I think.
In his Christmas 2016 Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis said: “The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God (…). It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace”. This is the opposite of what people think – and we have to confess, what we think too – who see glory in power, in success, in superiority towards others, in lording it over them.
To live Christmas means to welcome the power of this Child and to let ourselves be transformed from within. To live Christmas means to agree to change ourselves and to lead a new life, transfigured by love. It is the grace and the invitation to put the beauty of the divine light that comes to us from the grotto of Bethlehem into practice through words and concrete actions. As individuals and as a community, we Christians and Muslims – because Christmas is a feast for all, whose message is accessible to all – are called to illuminate the darkness of fear and of absurdity, of irresponsibility and of hatred with words and actions of light, sowing with both hands the seeds of peace, truth, justice, freedom and love. Let us live in a spirit of humility and respect for the other: let us accept people with their differences, not using such differences to place ourselves one against the other, but discovering in them the possibility of mutual enrichment. What unites and binds us to each other is much greater than what separates us. The joy and peace of Christmas are not a privilege to hold tightly for ourselves, but a gift to share with others, carrying out the responsibility of building a future of fraternity and harmony.
Christians are men and women who, notwithstanding difficulties, contradictions and, at times, even rejection and violence, remain anchored in God and place their entire confidence in him. A God who in Jesus became our brother, our companion for the journey! Christmas thus becomes an invitation to hope, a hope for all, for the inhabitants of Iraq too. It is a hope which allows us to begin always anew, even after the difficulties and the pain suffered in these years.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Be sure that the Holy Father Pope Francis is close to you, that he carries you in his heart and always prays for you. We are grateful to you for your witness, which has become a living example for all Christians of the world. Remain steadfast in faith and love and become ever more the builders of a world of fraternity and peace, strengthened by the light of the Child born for us and for our salvation. May Mary, our Mother, teach us to guard the treasure of Christmas in our heart, with prayer and meditation. I wish all of you and your beloved country the gifts of Christmas: may the announcement of this night clothed with splendid light fill you with peace and joy! Amen.
His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin,
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
Baghdad, 24 December 2018
Christmas Message for Iraq
I greet all of you with great affection, also in the name of His Holiness Pope Francis who has asked me to convey his best wishes to the beloved people of Iraq. I thank God for granting me the joy of visiting your country, a cradle of civilization, rich in biblical references and in history, the land of the Patriarch Abraham, where the history of salvation began. In these days I will celebrate with Christian communities the liturgies of the birth of Jesus Our Lord. At Christmas, “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all” (cf. Tit 2:11). The proclamation becomes reality, the promises are fulfilled: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).
The Son of God incarnate gives us joy and peace, responding to the most intimate and profound aspirations of every human heart. It is God alone who can grant lasting peace and joy, strengthening and reinforcing them with law and justice.
Pope Francis reminds us that: “The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God (…). It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace”. (Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2016).
Christmas is a celebration for everyone and its message is addressed to all men and women of goodwill. As individuals and as community, we Christians and Muslims are called to illuminate the darkness of fear and of absurdity, of irresponsibility and of hatred with words and actions of light, sowing with both hands the seeds of peace, truth, justice, freedom and love. Let us live in a spirit of humility and respect for others: let us accept people with their differences, not using such differences to pit ourselves one against the other, but discovering in them the possibility of mutual enrichment, seeking always the common good. What unites and binds us to each other is much greater than what separates us. The joy and peace of Christmas are not a privilege to hold tightly for ourselves, but a gift to share with others, carrying out the responsibility of building a future of fraternity and harmony. May the God of peace, who became our brother and companion for the journey, grant joy and peace for a better future for all the people of this beloved land of Iraq.