Patriarch Sako: Letter to Christians and the People of Iraq, on the Occasion of Pope Francis’ Visit
“Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1 Peter: 1).
I would like to address this letter to you on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq due to its national and ecclesiastical significance:
- A visit that will set a “new milestone” for our Church and Country
His Holiness Pope Francis will make a visit to Iraq on 5-8 March 2021. It is a pilgrimage to the land of Abraham carrying a “message” of comfort to everyone in this time of uncertainty, rather than a tourism or luxury.
It is such a historic event that we should be prepared for it, nationally, ecclesiastically and spiritually. Its’ importance lies in encouraging Iraqis to overcome the painful past in order to reconcile and sooth their wounds; unite and cooperate to achieve peace, stability, consolidation of coexistence and development; to respect and appreciate diversity and pluralism, simply because they are “different” brothers of one family and citizens of a shared home named as Iraq. So they should join hands for peace.
We should be up to the event and not let this visit go unnoticed, without leaving a “positive” impact on our Churches and our country, since it invites us, Christians to pilgrim towards our original roots to make a conversion and hold onto our Iraqi Christian identity.
Moreover, this visit is an opportunity for us to think, review, analyze, and launch a new vision for the Church in Iraq and the region; to set up a working plan for it; to become more enthusiastic in returning to the “radical” evangelical spirituality and be closer to people, serving them generously and joyfully by all means, similar to what our Church Fathers, Saints and Martyrs did.
As you all know, Chaldean as well as other Iraqi Churches and those throughout the Middle East are experiencing the pressure of various political, economic and social challenges due to conflicts, extremism, immigration and the consequences of corona pandemic that have confused the vision and complicated relations and work.
This visit must be invested to be a major turning point, so that the faith and hope inside us become a commitment.
- Everyone is Responsible
As we are in the 21st Century, we must realize the importance of reviewing and changing our way of thinking, in terms of theological, spiritual, liturgical, pastoral, ecumenical and educational aspects. Moreover, we should include in this category our behaviour as believers and devoted servants called by the Lord to care for His people, away from clericalism and prestige.
Today, we have to question ourselves about: our presence, our impact on Christians and society in general. Also, on what is our vision of the future of Christianity and mission in Iraq and the Middle East? Is it immigration or to stay and face challenges with faith, hope and joy. This land is ours, and cannot be imagined without Christians. There is also a great challenge facing families who decided to have the least number of children. Though, we should support each other, whether we are living inside the country or in diaspora.
Our presence in Iraq is not “random” or for immigration but rather a divine plan, a vocation and mission that cannot be abandoned despite all the difficulties. As pastors, we have to understand the new reality with an open mind, and we must reorganize and change things wisely to make the Christian life in harmony with the demands of the present time, while remaining anchored in our oriental authenticity, that is, drawing water from the fountain rather than from the waterwheel, based on the letter of Pope Francis “The pastoral conversion of the parish community to the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church”, where he states that evangelization is the standard that must guide and move us.
In his speeches, Pope Francis insists on a Church to be in the heart of the world by going out to the people, speaks to them in their language, and of perennial incarnation and resurrection.
Characteristics of the Dynamic Church
For the Chaldean Church to be dynamic and present, it should be:
- Church of Jesus Christ, Gospel, mission, catechism, service and pastoral work.
- Church of the Holy Spirit as it was at the time of Apostles and Church Fathers, in which everyone finds his place, role and bears his responsibility.
- Church of full communion-ship with the Catholic Church, respecting its’ full privacy, charisma and legacy.
- Church that is committed to the “renewals” of the Second Vatican Council.
- Church of ecumenical dialogue with sister Churches, as well as being a Church for coexistence with other religions, especially with Islam.
- Church that cares about public affairs: by standing firm with the legitimate aspirations of people for justice, equality, respect, freedom and dignity.
In conclusion, I call on Christians in Iraq and the Middle East to stand by each other to proclaim the Gospel despite Church multiplicity and diversity. Since we are one family in essence and brothers with differences, we are called to fulfil our vocation in this “tested” part of the Middle East. From this standpoint, I urge everyone to benefit from Pope Francis’ visit by mobilizing world opinion towards supporting Eastern Christians to remain as a living sign of Christ’s presence, fraternity and coexistence.
Welcome to His Holiness, Pope Francis in the land of Abraham, the father of the believers, In Chaldean: Bshina Bshine o Baba Dmarietha. Welcome to the Father of the Church.
God protect you all and please stay safe and sound.