Baghdad — Unity is a fundamental good for the Church, even Iraq’s Chaldean church, which is “wounded and lost,” but wants to continue to pursue its core mission, to proclaim the Gospel to all, without distinction. This means that the church cannot and will not involved in disputes of a political nature, which instead belongs to the sphere of competence of the lay faithful. This is the message of the Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako in a letter to clergy, which was published on May 19.
“Our Church – the Patriarch writes – is wounded, dispersed, suffering for many reasons, including: the destabilization of our country since the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, the lack of vision for the present reality of our nation and its future; the exodus of Christians, and fleeing of some priests to the West where some have joined other churches; the absence of authority (leadership) in the Church, the lack of respect for the canons”. “This legacy is a very heavy one” and requires “a serious contemplative pause to reflect on our current situation and gather for the progress of our Church,” so she can resume her role “as marked out by the Lord Jesus. Now is the ideal opportunity to work together as a team and in an evangelical spirit to serve our people without exception.This will not be a waste of time or effort”.
The document then goes on to address the current campaign of nationalism and the position of the Chaldean Patriarchate on this issue, who states that “love for and pride in our nation is not a defect, but it is a defect to consider it the best and above all, even worse when this leads to some insulting others who do not share in its identity. Something like this happened in recent times, so much so that the Chaldean Patriarchate was questioned on its position regarding nationalism and politics. Some voices have tried to destroy the identity of our Chaldean Catholic Church, of which we are proud, through the media, on the pretense of “freedom of expression.” Unfortunately, a website of the Church was behind this drift. These are people who see things with one eye only and try to push the Church towards their specific interests, but this will never happen! We are a Church and see things with both eyes wide open, in their global context and with great responsibility. Such people can not make us abandon our Christian principles”. “Our path to authenticity is the return to our origins and our renewal.” “Unity, however, is a big challenge, without it there is no future. I insist on unity and ask everyone to take responsibility to achieve this, going beyond controversies and divisions.” “We must all work for the unity of the Church of the East, because every division is a sin. In our pastoral visit to the diocese of Australia (2 to 16 May) we witnessed encounters of unity with the Assyrian Church of the East, which are etched in our memory and in our hearts, and gave us an impetus to move forward with confidence. “
“The strength of the Church – reads the letter – is its mission, not its money, nor the number of her followers. Many are those who have spoken recently about the majority and the minority in the Church, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, and “victory” as if we were at war. This is a shame. If we return to the Gospel, we see that strength lies in the elite and the little things like salt and light, leaven, little flock! Our staying in Iraq and in the Middle East is a sign of hope and coexistence despite the threats of death!”.
“The Chaldean Catholic Church has been and always will be open to all nations and languages because Christ has sent us to proclaim the Gospel to all nations. And today, there are Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds in it, do we have to make them all Chaldeans? And what should we say then about the Chaldeans Muslims! We are the Chaldean Catholic Church, open to Christians and Muslims and others. We believe in unity and pluralism, and that friendship is at the heart of the Divine life and our Christian life should be marked by it. We clergy, in all our positions, we must not abandon our evangelical mission to become supporters of nationalist politics. “
“We affirm that politics is the responsibility of competent lay people. We encourage them to open schools to teach the Chaldean language, cultural and social centers for culture and art, political parties that defend rights, but we can not insert ourselves as members or supporters. This is the thin red line. We must remain attached to our priestly vocation in service of all people without exception”.
“The Church – recalls the Patriarch – is Mother and Teacher and there is no conflict between the two. Teaching is an activity that enters deep into motherhood. The mother teaches her child to become part of the human community with love and patience, and part of the Church with faith, trust and hope. The Church is a mother full of goodness and forgiveness, She teaches her children the truth and guides them towards the right path, illuminated by the light of the Gospel throughout life, with the Spirit of love, wisdom and challenge! The Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches clearly states: “The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to accept what the Church’s Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church”. As consecrated persons, our main role is always to proclaim the Gospel and to transmit the faith through the power of the Holy Spirit and with love and brotherhood among men and women”. “Our vocation is not compromise or exploitation, but to always point to the image of Christ. “
“Dear friends – concludes the letter – it is time to understand that our Chaldean Catholic Church is invited in consciousness to transform present reality in the light of the resurrection, life and renewal, with a generous commitment, and to help her children, men and women, to draw her future with clear lines, not words or criticism, but with actions and suggestions and with a scientific methodology that can be transformed into an active force in society. Such work requires the efforts of all, and will be the substance of the next Chaldean synod.”
By Joseph Mahmoud