Address of His Beatitude Patriarch Sako at the Opening of the Chaldean Synod Attended by Laity
6 August, 2019, Ankawa – Erbil
First, I would like to salute all the participants of the 2019 Synod, clergy and laity. I invite you to contribute with a spirit of love, fraternity and unity, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4: 3). It is a good opportunity for us to study the complicated situation of our Chaldean Church in Iraq and diaspora, including the struggle with displacement, killing and destruction as well as current fears and concerns about the future. So, each one of us should bear his full responsibility in diagnosing, analyzing and finding ways to deal with it by “walking together” towards harmony and full communion.
In such difficult circumstances, our faith should lead us to plant hope, joy and peace in the hearts of those we serve; respect them and create a friendly relationship with them, otherwise, we won’t grow up, improve and be trusted, but rather lose our credibility. Therefore, we should walk in the path of “Evangelical conversion” with all its aspects.
Bishops and priests are called to be Christ on earth, since bishops are apostles successors, while priests are their assistants in proclaiming the Good News in various forms. Our service is characterized by self-denying, as much as we can, equipped with impartiality and integrity, unlike “administrative” people. We nurture our mission and our relationships by prayers, daily celebration of the Eucharist, keeping in mind that our relationship with Christ is our identity.
Every Church, in its geographical location, is called to pay attention to the reality, challenges, fears, aspirations and hopes of its people and follow it up by shedding the light of the Gospel on it. In addition, the Church is called also to search for new ways to live and deliver the Gospel to their people. A church that does not seek “renewal” in its’ mission is a church ruled by aging.
Lay person is a member of the Church; a partner of the bishop and priest by virtue of the “common priesthood” received in baptism, and for his rule in deepening the faith in the family, keeping the tradition and Christian values and their own roots of the Chaldean identity. Additionally, laity have technical and scientific skills and competences with charisma that can be used to serve and develop the Church. Hence, laity are of help for us, and we need more of their vital presence (of both men and women) to participate in administrating the Church, in various capacities, and in harmony, to avoid mixing roles. From this point of view, we invite them to work with bishops and priests with respect and love.
It is a healthy sign to have laity with us in this synod expressing a “shared” responsibility that Pope Francis frequently affirms, especially that he has assigned important positions to them in the Roman Curia.
We as clergy and laity have to work together courageously as one team, in the spirit of synodality, in order to “incarnate” the word of God in us and in our society as Jesus Christ did.
These days, we must read carefully our ecclesiastical, social and national reality, in a “proper” faith perspective, rather than a stereotypical or superficial reading, in order to be able to differentiate the “signs of time”.
When the occasion arises, we should acknowledge our failure as we recognize our success, since, telling the truth in a timely fashion remains a form of respect and a strive for reforming.
Challenges: Public affairs in Iraq, especially Chaldean status; immigration and how emigrants can maintain their faith and the traditions of their Church; youth; witnessing for non-Christian; vocations for priestly and monastic orders; and adopting a unified financial management that allows dioceses to deal in harmony with each other and with the professional mechanism of the Catholic Churches around the world, without being subjected to individual interpretations and variations.
The participation of lay people in the life of the Church might lead to a “work plan” that helps in the progress and prosperity of the Church, as long as the doctrine, liturgical contexts and related issues are not affected.
Providing a climate for the sustainable development of laity by investing on their abilities and talents for the purpose of serving the Church.
Discussing the affairs of our communities in diaspora: ecclesiastical courts, protection of minors in the Church, and possible ways of interacting with the Church in Iraq.
Media, and the possibility of financing a Chaldean TV channel, or initiate a partnership with Noursat – Telelumiere channels.
We should be able to create a three-year roadmap with an implementation mechanism (e.g. forming a follow up committee of clergy and laity at the patriarchate diocese and the rest of Chaldean dioceses) to make sure that the decisions made by Synod Fathers and signed based on collegiality are being put into actions, especially that some of such decisions are unfortunately neglected by some members.
Let us pray those days for peace, stability and security in Iraq, Syria and the region. We pray also for our Church, in particular, for the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq at this turning point in our history, for his presence and encouragement are what we need now.
Finally, I wish that this Synod would be exceptionally successful.