Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - They arrived in Iraq a few days ago and have already begun their mission at the service of different dioceses and communities of the Chaldean Church: they are Indian priests and nuns of the Syro-Malabar Church, sent to offer their own priestly and religious vocation among Iraqi Christians. Two Carmelite priests, Father George and Father Paul, will work in the Chaldean parishes of Baghdad, while six nuns will be sent to support the pastoral activities of the Chaldean communities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah. Three other nuns will work among the Christian communities of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The sending of Malabar priests and nuns to Iraq is of particular importance and interest if we consider the constraints that bind the Chaldean Church and the Syro-Malabar Church, and if we consider the dynamics with which the Christian proclamation spread in Asia since apostolic times.
Already in the Christian IV century, the Christian communities that flourished in Malabar were linked with the ancient Church of the East, and from Mesopotamia bishops periodically came with the task of guiding the baptized Malabarians, who had adopted the Eastern Syriac rite.
After the beginning of the modern era and the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries, with the consequent problems linked to the attempted processes of "Latinization" of the Eastern rite Christian communities present in India, Chaldean Patriarch Youssef VI Audo (1848-1878) had even tried to restore the ancient custom of sending bishops from Mesopotamia to the Syro-Malabar communities.
Now, the historical vicissitudes have also contributed to weakening the priestly and religious vocations in the Chaldean Church, which in the last 15 years has seen a drastic decrease of their ecclesial communities, also because of the migratory flows that brought hundreds of thousands of Christian Iraqis to move to the West or other Middle Eastern countries. Instead, priestly and religious vocations continue to flourish in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Last year - recall the communications bodies linked to the Chaldean Patriarchate - a delegation from the Chaldean Church went to Kerala, and asked the Syro-Malabar bishops to send priests, men and women religious to Iraq, to support the ordinary pastoral activities of the Chaldean dioceses.
From the communities of the so-called "Christians of St. Thomas", which flourished in India thanks to the preaching of Gospel heralds who arrived from Mesopotamia, today new apostolic energies, nourished by the grace of the Holy Spirit, sustain the life of faith of the Iraqi Christian communities, in the same lands crossed by the Tigris and the Euphrates where the missionaries of the ancient Eastern Church who had brought the name of Christ to India and China came from.
Thus, with regards to the Malabar Christians who offer their energies in the lands of Mesopotamia, the source of gratuitousness is again manifested which alone can nourish every missionary adventure. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 27/8/2019)