ASIA/IRAQ - Cardinal Sako returns to Baghdad: "We are not a Church of strangers"

Thursday, 13 June 2024 oriental churches   area crisis   citizenship

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - "We are not a Church of strangers" because "we are the descendants of Abraham the Chaldean, the father of all believers" and "we are one of the colors of the beautiful Iraqi fabric that must be preserved", said Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, on Wednesday evening, June 12, in his homily during the Mass held in the Church of "Mar Girgis" on the occasion of his return to Baghdad after almost eleven months of absence from the Patriarchate.
In July 2023, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid had repealed Decree 147, issued by his predecessor Jalal Talabani on July 10, 2013, which established the papal appointment of the Patriarch as head of the Chaldean Church "in Iraq and in the world" at the level of national legislation and recognized him as "responsible for the property of the Church". This presidential provision had triggered a crisis in relations between the Chaldean Patriarchate and the Iraqi political and institutional leadership, prompting Patriarch Sako to leave the Patriarchal seat of Baghdad and move to Erbil.
In recent days (see Fides, 12/6/2024), a decree signed by Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani had confirmed the "appointment" of Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako as Patriarch of the Chaldean Church "in Iraq and in the world", recognizing him once again as the one ultimately responsible for the properties and endowments of his Patriarchal Church. The decree, which recognized Cardinal Sako's patriarchal prerogatives, had paved the way for overcoming the crisis and the Patriarch's return to Baghdad. On the day of the Patriarch's return, the entire local community, including nuns, priests and Bishops Basilius Yaldo and Shlemon Warduni, gathered around the Cardinal.
In his homily, Patriarch Sako thanked God for "putting an end to this difficult period of injustice through the courageous initiative of Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani." "The Prime Minister's provision," added the Iraqi Cardinal, "gives new confidence to Christians, who have been tested more than once since the fall of the previous regime, and strengthens their hope for a better future."
"The indigenous Christians of Iraq," stressed the Patriarch, "are not strangers in this blessed land. We are the descendants of those who founded the Mesopotamian civilization. We are the descendants of the Epic of Gilgamesh with its profound human content, the descendants of Hammurabi, the author of the first law in human history, and the descendants of Abraham the Chaldean, the father of believers in the One God. Our Church is one of the oldest churches." It is a Church that has always lived an absolute loyalty to the homeland, to which "we have given much."
"Now," added the Patriarch, "we wish that the government negotiates with us on the basis of the principles of citizenship and equality, respects our representation and returns our confiscated homes and property." Restoring justice to Christians, the Cardinal stressed, "can encourage those who have emigrated to return to their country, invest and create jobs." (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 13/6/2024)