Louis Sako, who appeals to the faithful Baghdad Welcomes New "not to be afraid"
Saint Joseph's Cathedral hosted the ceremony of enthronement
of His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I. The latter thanked his predecessor and
renewed the offer to work with Muslims. Prime Minister al-Maliki stressed the
importance of Iraq's Christian community, urging them "not to emigrate".تكبير الصورةتصغير الصورة تم تعديل ابعاد هذه الصورة. انقر هنا لمعاينتها بأبعادها الأصلية.
: "Do not be afraid" to face and surmount "a difficult period"
because suffering, tribulations and the blood shed by martyrs can "incorporate
us into the mystery of Christ" and "help us recognise the presence of God among
us," said Mar Louis Raphael I Sako during the Mass that enthroned him today in
Baghdad's St Joseph Cathedral. The event marks the start of the new patriarchate
of the Iraqi Chaldean Church.
High-ranking Christian and Muslim religious
leaders as well as political and civic leaders, not to mention thousands of the
faithful, took part in the ceremony. In addition to the patriarchs of the
Eastern Churches and the Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Mgr Giorgio
Lingua, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and National Assembly Speaker Osama
al-Nujaifi were also present.
The prime minister noted again that Christians are
an important part of the country. He urged them "not to emigrate", saying that
"we are sad to see them leave because of threats from depraved people."
Mar Louis Raphael I Sako was appointed patriarch
of the Chaldean Church of Iraq on 31 January in replacement of Card Emmanuel
Delly III who resigned because of age. This followed a mini-conclave held in
Rome 28 January that brought together 15 Chaldean bishops, seven from Iraq, two
from Iran, two from the United States, and one from Lebanon, Syria, Australia
Born on 4 July 1948 in Zahko, northern Iraq, Mar
Louis Raphael I Sako was ordained priest on 1 June 1974. He held the post of
archbishop of Kirkuk for many years.
On several occasions, he bemoaned the exodus of
Christians from the country, calling for steps to guarantee them a peaceful
future. For his work, he received the Defensor Fidei Award in 2008 and the Pax
Christi International Award in 2010.
In his maiden speech, Patriarch Sako looked back
on his beginnings, talking about his years in Kirkuk, 'the city of the eternal
fire', and his return to Baghdad, 'the city of peace'.
In thanking his predecessor Patriarch Delly, "who
served the Chaldean Church in difficult times and chose to remain in Iraq," he
spoke about the "last few years full of dangers, and the fear of death that
still lives in our people."
"Enough blood and destruction," His Beatitude
said. "True greatness is achieved not by domination but by service and sacrifice
to consolidate what is good, righteous and honest."
Difficulties, violence and persecution should not
push a community to leave. Yet, half have done so since the fall of Saddam
Hussein in 2003. For this reason, during the homily the patriarch warned the
faithful "not be afraid" as Jesus said "before and after his
"Suffering, tribulations and the blood shed by
martyrs can incorporate us into the mystery of Christ" and "help us recognise
the presence of God among us," he added. For this, we need "authenticity
connected to renewal" that will touch "our liturgy and teaching methods" in
accordance with "the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and the apostolic
exhortation 'Ecclesia in Medio Oriente'. This way, the faithful will be able to
understand, share and be closer to Christ and the Church."
Speaking about the exodus of Christians from Iraq
and relations with the Muslim majority, His Beatitude spoke about the problems
associated with "security and freedom". In spite of the situation, "I do not
encourage anyone to leave the country." On the contrary, people "should stay and
continue on their path because it is a duty towards one's faith and
Thus, it is necessary "to work with everyone in
the Chaldean Church," especially "with my fellow bishops, priests, men and women
religious, believers, men and women, for the good of the Church and the
"With our Muslim brothers that God loves as he
loves us, we shall stress what brings us closer whilst respecting what makes us
different," said the Chaldean patriarch.
Although "It is God's will that we be different,
we must work on finding grounds on which we can meet and share because, as
Benedict XVI said in his first meeting with the new patriarch, the Iraqi Church
must continue to be a bridge between Christians and