Patriarch Sako’s Address of the 2021 Chaldean Synod
Bishops of the Chaldean 2021 Synod gathered in the patriarchal headquarters in Al-Mansour, Baghdad on Monday, August 9, 2021, to start with reciting morning prayers followed by celebrating the daily mass. At ten o’clock The opening session started with short prayer. Afterward, His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphael Card. Sako reviewed the Synod agenda and related letters received by the Patriarchate, followed by Patriarch Sako’s address after which the discussion continued throughout the morning.
Below is the Address of Patriarch Sako
“Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. (Romans 1/7).
I am pleased to greet you all while convening our regular annual Synod in Baghdad, after 2020 break, imposed on by COVID-19 pandemic.
I am confident that this Synod will instill hope in the hearts of faithful; raise their spirits in the midst of their worries; reduce their suffering and grief; and respond to their wishes.
- It is my pleasure to point out the importance of Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq, as a “momentous” in our modern history that opened Iraq to the whole world. Moreover, Pope Francis’ messages and meetings during this visit gave peace and harmonious coexistence an opportunity that we should not miss. As for the Church, the historic moment was when the Pope celebrated the mass according to our Chaldean rite in St. Joseph Cathedral in Baghdad, and said to me: “What a beautiful prayer”. This celebration reflects the importance of the Eastern Churches among other Universal Churches, especially when His Holiness added in his homily: “You are a living and strong Church”. This by itself should motivate us to renew our spiritual ecclesiastical, humanitarian and national commitments. In addition to the treasured Sunday mass with an estimated 10,000 people (including Government officials and faithful from different Churches and religions) at Faranso Hariri stadium in Erbil.
- As we are experiencing uncertainty and social as well as political instability in Iraq and other countries where we work, it is crucial for us to walk together in full communion as the synod word means. In terms of being close to people, to welcome them, listen to them, and serve them, on daily basis with the love and humility of Jesus Christ. We are pastors, fathers and brothers, so we must respond to their questions and needs with honesty, clarity and respect, in a way that our answers should be appropriate to make faithful sense that we are carrying the light of Christ to them, rather than having “old ready answers” that do not match their aspirations. We, as bishops, are called by virtue of our position and dedication to read the signs of the times; to reflect a true evangelical experience; and to continue with enthusiasm our service at spiritual, pastoral and educational levels. This can only be done by strengthening a close “personal relationship” with The One who called us and sent us to this mission.
- Renewal and reforms. I would like to highlight the necessity of this issue by encouraging our priests, consecrated persons and faithful to renew their thoughts, spirituality and openness to the world. However, the power of faith and prayers will strengthen our solidarity, taking us to a more spacious spaces of hope that enable us to overcome such difficult circumstances.
- Clergy formation. one of our priorities is to have a comprehensive and solid priestly formation, which will enable them to perform their pastoral mission appropriately, and to be a role model of a firm commitment to the Gospel so as to serve their community with humility, simplicity and honesty. On the other hand, I would like to point out here, the importance of dealing graciously with our priests in accordance with the evangelical love. Isn’t sad to hear in public about misunderstanding between priests and bishops?
- Selection of new bishops. we must emphasize that the candidate should have the required qualities that applies to the laws of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canons of the Oriental Catholic Churches (C. 180-189) in addition to the instructions issued by the congregation of Bishops that have been sent to you. These spiritual, cultural, pastoral and administrative standards are required for the bishop to be a leader in his diocese, able to make appropriate decisions that contribute to the progress and prosperity of his diocese at all levels.
- Renew the Liturgy and catechism. Social media and Corona pandemic have imposed a new reality on humanity: a new vision, a new thought, a new logic, a new sensitivity and a new approach. As a result, the percentage of those who are practicing religious celebrations as well as participating in catechism has declined. Yet, the other obstacle is related to our current rituals that can be traced back to more than a thousand years, some of which were “born” in a Christological controversy’s environment. Sometimes the content, the language and the style of performance are not related to the sensitivity and circumstances of our time. Therefore, it is illogical to hold onto these rituals literally, mainly when we face questions such as: what is our vision for the future? what is our strategy? There must be cultural “exchange”, and the Church should adopt the process of “refining and renewal” to nurture faithful in their daily lives and enrich them spiritually, away from boredom, repetition, and based on the fact that rituals are made for them, as stated by St. John Chrysostom (died 9/14/407), and it is a mean rather than a target. We have to think about the Chaldean youth and those who were born in the Western countries, knowing very little “almost nothing” about these rituals and have no tendency to “pray” it because it doesn’t fit (match) their present, language, logic and culture. Translation is not enough, no matter how accurate it could be. Rituals should be renewed and evolved with the change of time and place. Faithful must be educated and made aware of the importance of rituals, their meanings and symbols in order to participate in their performance. This also applies to “Christian education / Catechism” curricula and the way or method of teaching it. At the same time, this calls us to be patient and wise throughout the process of forming, especially toward those who oppose renewal and feel comfortable with the old rituals and teachings.
- The situation of Christians in most of our countries the situation must be read carefully and deeply, but not stereotypically or superficially, especially when is related to those who are subjected to pressure as well as to increasing immigration that reduces their number. Hence, the Church should not play a partisan political role, but rather work, with apostolic responsible courage, to enlighten consciences on issues of peace, social justice, citizenship and immigration due to future uncertainty and climate changes. The mission of the Churches is also to be the required voice in sowing the seeds of fraternity, love, peace, security, solidarity, cooperation with joy in addition to call for justice. I have tried, since I assumed responsibility, for the Church to be present in the life of Iraqi society, as well as in international and ecclesiastical forums. It is of great importance to strengthen the presence of our Chaldean Church in Iraq, here its future because of the land, language, history and heritage…
Finally, I hope that this Synod clarifies the way in serving our communities with impartiality and wisdom. Also, to be a ground of hope, action, commitment and persistence, considering the martyrs of our Church and the pain she carries in her body along the history, which is the power of Resurrection as happened to Jesus Christ after His Passion.