Father Albert Hisham – The Chaldean Patriarchate Media Administrator: On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his Episcopal ordination, and nine months of his inauguration as Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, and on the occasion of the conclusion of the Year of Faith, His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako sent today, 31 October 2013, a second letter to the Chaldean clergy that came as a continuation for the first letter sent on July 4, 2013. In this letter, His Beatitude addresses realistically the qualities of the shepherd in the living Church, and reminds the clergy, monks and nuns with their high vocation that the Lord had called them to. He focused especially on the values of daily prayer, communal life, humble service, clarity and transparency in dealing with financial matters.
Below is the complete text of His Beatitude’s letter:
A Second Letter to the Chaldean Clergy
“As shepherds and servants, we should proceed with determination and strength in front of ‘The Flock’ to find its way to God, not behind it or escape under any excuse”
Reverend Fathers, The bishops
Beloved Brothers, the Priests
Dear Sisters and Brothers in religious orders belonging to the Chaldean Patriarchate
I greet you with love: Christ’s peace be with you.
To mark ten years of my episcopates, nine months on the patriarchal See, and near the end of Year of Faith, I would like to address you once again with these ideas flowing from my heart, where I invite you to think of the wonderful mission you are called to do in the Church and with the Church and for the Church to be the One, Universal, Holy and Apostolic Church. Remember always that you are priests!!
First of all I would like to thank sincerely everyone cooperated with me and prayed for me, for the Chaldean Church, and for the Christians in Iraq and the region who were tested more than once and are still being tested.
Thank you for everyone who understood my motto and practical program: Authenticity, Unity and Renovation in Spirit and Truth with confidence and joy. My pastoral guidelines that were imbeddedwithin my motto and repeated appeals are clear. Today I tell you frankly: I am not scared of anyone, and I will stay faithful to my vocation and my principles whatever are the challenges and criticism; as there is no life without challenges.
The Church is not a Civil Society Organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)
Here I remind you of the words of the well-known theologian Romano Guardini: “The Church is not an institution devised and built by men … but a living reality…. It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes … and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same; its inmost nucleus is Christ.” So there is a relationship between Christ and the members of the community, the relationship cannot be inseparable and if so then it dies! The Church is ecumenical in nature and yet comprehensive. If closed on itself then it loses its identity.
Like all living entities the church renovates, it evolves! And if it stopped growing, it means that there is something wrong that should be known and treated!
I hope that this journey, that we began nine months ago with difficulty and something of pain, is fruitful. I know that my first letter was strict but yielded tangible fruits. On the example of Pope of Renewal and “sweeping the rotten”, Pope Francis, God’s surprise and gift to the Church, is an incentive for us to be closer to the Gospel through prayer and sober ascetic work. It was he who said, “My people are poor and I’m one of those people”, and who dwelt in a simple apartment in Buenos Aires, preparing his own food, and visiting the poor, and encourages and helps raise the morale of people. On this occasion, I assure all that I shall continue accomplishing the unity of the Chaldean Church and deepen communion between the dioceses and our parishes on the basis of truth and justice and not on “gossip”, so everyone would feel the depth of our unity. I accompany all through prayer, service, and devotion to the Lord who called me to this responsibility and to His Gospel and His Bride the Church. I shall seek to reflect the beauty, glory and holiness of the Church. And this only happen through prayer, as Jesus was transfigured while He was praying (Luke 9:29)!
Daily personal and communally prayer is power and console
Daily personal and communally prayer, especially the liturgical, would evolve and support our activity and give it a taste and strength, and bring us back to the spring and origin; without it our heart will be dry and our work would become a routine activity. Our Liturgy, if celebrated in a well-prepared and organized way, would nourish the faith of the parishioners and reflect the unity of the Church and its identity, so we need to be careful not to be celebrating the Sacraments as some kind of a show having movement and words…
I ask you to continue to pray for this difficult and holy task so that this journey of hope will continue towards God by the light of the Holy Spirit, in austerity and humility, sobriety and joy.
We are servants not princes
After this entire heavy and segmented heritage, we are in front of a fork: Do we want to follow Christ or follow ourselves? Do we really give up on our personal benefit for the common good or we still want to put ourselves in the middle as if it is the base of everything!
The cleric is a man of God; he must be a natural and ordinary person and is not above human beings, although his vocation is from heaven! It is important that his life would reflect his belief to the people living with him! Faith without being reflected in our daily behavior does not have benefit.
The call of the Gospel is radical “Leave everything and follow me!” And it contradicts some of our behavior, for example: Ecclesiastical stiffness, excessive use of authority, attention to formalities and appearances, superiority, exploitation, and having business mentality! We must avoid all of this so that we can always go forward to the outermost and the innermost, to the basis and core! We have to be entirely and wholeheartedly for Christ and His Church, otherwise there is no meaning for our consecration!
In His Homily on the occasion of priestly ordination on April21, 2013, Pope Francis said: “Remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries”.
“Service” is not a routine work that we do in our vacant time! Service is basic and essential in our mission. Our authority is tangible service. We should be faithful and dedicated to “Serving” in humility, mercy, generosity and laying down oneself to the extent as of Jesus Christ who gave himself for us: “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you” (John 13:14-15), and “Just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many“(Matthew 20:28), and”If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”(Mark 9:35). Jesus have brought back to us the values of sacrifice for human being and his rights and dignity, not to sacrifice humans as it is currently happening in our tormented region. The actual authority is serving the most needed, the poorest and most vulnerable, and the true dignity is “Service”, and the Holy Father asked us to serve while kneeling on our knees! We need to hold the happiness, sorrows and hopes of our suffering people at homeland and at countries of immigration.
Our priesthood does not give us any immunity. We shall stress firmly on measures relating to morals, whatever the rank of clergy, according to the laws of the Church and the directives of the Holy See! We are servants and not princes, patrons of the parish who need to look after the parishioners attending continuously and kindly to their needs, carrying them on our shoulders and protect them, and stay close to all people, and our doors are open to welcome all and give them support and help and reduce their suffering. Our welcoming and kindness towards them reflects the presence of God and his love.
We, as pastors/shepherds and servants, should proceed with determination and strength in front of ‘The Flock’ to find its way to God, not behind it, where escaping under any excuse is considered betrayal and letting others down. Never let the frustrating reality takes away your joy and enthusiasm and especially your hope, the hope that God provide. Let no one seduces you with promises or money, be yourselves: Your honesty, righteousness, and love will intercede for you. Do not be afraid of walking with courage and confidence opposite the flow. Be brave! And let your light shines amid the many clouds trying to shade everything!
Monks are to return to their Monastery
The dedicated monks, whose vows are poverty, chastity and obedience, need to live in the monastery a communal life of prayer, meditation and work. Monastery life cannot be lived in isolation. Living in community boost your lives; and the grace of living together will allow you to serve God faithfully and your vocation with purity. This collective experience of devoted living is always light in the journey of the Church and strength and tangible consolation. It is not acceptable that we find here and there monks who had left their monasteries and started looking for a more comfortable life and freedom in working at a parish with parishioners and become closed on their self away from the communal and monastery life. Let them return quickly to their monastery and join their brothers no matter how difficult it seems, and if it was necessary that a parish is to be assigned to a monk then two other monks will accompany him.Let your life’s testimony be a joy, help and nourishment for you and your brothers the believers!
Our Sisters the nuns also need to find permanent spiritual fathers, preferably among the monks, with a profound knowledge of monastery life, wisdom and high spiritual experience. We all need follow-up and guidance.
Transparency in Financial Matters
The Financial Department is to operate with full transparency and fairness and wisdom because it makes available the salaries of the workers within the church, and the expenses involved in church activities and maintenance of the property. Managing of the funds is entrusted to honest lay peoples who have experience in economy and not to the Bishop or priest. In every parish, there must be a financial department that would do editing at least once a year. I myself have formed an independent financial Committee that will be asked to provide an annual inventory audit to be sent to all Archbishops. There is much talk on the clergy! Let us leave this matter to someone else as we have a more important thing to do.
We are in a liturgical season in our Chaldean church the season of Sanctification of the Church, time of staying awake, prayer and introspection, let us keep our lamps on and not surrender to sleep or laziness or frustration because of the current circumstances. The Lord is coming! Alleluia.
Let our mother Virgin Mary accompany and protect us in this difficult time. Pray for me, Amen.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
Baghdad, October 31, 2013