Patriarch Sako at the Easter Vigil Mass: Christ is risen, and Iraq must rise from his crisis, this is the most difficult choice!
His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass on the 20th of April 2019 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Karradah – Baghdad with the participation of Vatican Ambassador, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, two of His Beatitude’s Auxiliary Bishops. Mar Basilios Yaldo and Mar Robert Saeed Jarjis, and number of Baghdad parishes’ priests. A number of Diplomats, Ambassadors, Iraqi Government Officials, nuns and a large gathering of faithful attended the mass.
Below is the Homily of His Beatitude Patriarch Sako:
Unfortunately, the absence of God, spiritual and moral values are increasing in our societies. Many people, institutions and nations consider these values old and out of time, that are incompatible with today’s culture. For example, some people proclaim that secular culture is stronger than religion!
Frankly, such culture empties humanity from utmost values puts our world to the “test”. For this reason, Jesus Christ raised his prophetic voice calling for a comprehensive revolution of change and reform with sincere attitudes and respect for the “life” of humankind that God created in His image and likeness. Jesus was crucified because He condemned abusing people in the name of religion.
We must realize our need for the light of God, in order to live the values of love, mercy, openness, service, honesty, respect and ultimately to achieve peace and joy.
Faith should be the base of our life and future, rather than “limited material interest”. This spirituality will free us from fear, anxiety and many more restrictions.
In his article, published recently on the 11th of April 2019 in the journal Klerusblatt, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI stated: “The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. A world without God can only be a world without meaning, in which the standards of good or evil no longer exist, leaving only the law of the strongest (terrorism). Power is then, the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist”. From this platform, I would like to emphasize that our world is “striving” to manufacture all forms of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, creating conflicts and wars, that leads to death and destruction.
We are celebrating the resurrection of Christ, which provides “assurance” for our resurrection and rise to another level of existence and relationship. Jesus invites everyone to discover God’s paternity as well as His presence among us. He calls us to build a sincere brotherly relationship with each other, a relation that makes us friends who share their concerns, sorrows, hopes and joy. Such an open friendship, makes us one family and this was the “key point” for the “Document on Human Fraternity” signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi.
God will be present in our life, once we discover that He is “love and alive” in the heart of this beautiful universe that He created and loved. Being amazed by its’ beauty, we should take care of the environment and value it as if it is part of our life and our being.
The presence of God in our life might be expressed simply, by praying from the heart, offering a service, helping needy (there are plenty of them those days), achieving peace or reconciliation.
Having this faith and despite all fears, we have absolute confidence that time will come and the Spirit of God will change “positively” the hearts of men and women, since God’s time cannot be measured by months or years. We are sure that our sufferings will not be in vain, as the passion of Jesus Christ was not the end, but rather crowned with resurrection and glory.
Iraq is well-known for its’ ancient civilizations and Iraqis are smart, brave and have a “deeply rooted history”, therefore, they must unite to restore their country. This morning, the President of Iraqi Parliament, announced Baghdad as a Capital of peace. In fact, Baghdad’s real name was the “City of Peace” but has been transformed by bad guys to the City of conflicts!
The precious blood of our martyrs, pain, and difficulties that we have experienced along these “tough” years, would definitely contribute to create a harmonious way of peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims, Sabians and Yazidis. Every moment of our suffering brings us closer to understand the mystery of God’s presence among us. It also helps us to discover “the hope”, which is a promise of God our father to have a new earth and a new heaven, as stated in the Book of Revelation.
As a local Church, we are one family embracing people and welcoming them as sisters and brothers regardless of their religion or ethnicity. When we went to Mosul (2 weeks ago) to pray for the comfort of ferry victims in addition to provide aids to their relatives, we have been asked whether Christians were among the victims? The answer was: we came because we are all brothers!! Our faith in the loving God leads us to commit ourselves to serve them generously without any discrimination.
In summary, let us benefit from the meanings of this “feast” to deepen our fraternity, consolidate our unity and establish the principles of full citizenship and coexistence to prepare a better future. Otherwise, we will lose and the whole region will lose its’ unique diversity, cultural and religious heritage. This is what we should never ever accept.
Let us pray for peace, stability and harmony in Iraq and the whole world. Let us pray also that the effort of the new Iraqi Government bear fruit for the benefit of our nation.
Finally, I wish you peace, stability, health, success and joy, by the grace of God the Lord.