Under the auspices of His Beatitude the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako and the presence of the Chaldean Bishops in Iraq, a meeting was held at the Patriarchal Monastery of St. Adday and St. Maary in Ankawa, where all Iraq's Chaldean priests gathered for the first time from 20 – 21 June 2016. The motto was "Merciful as Father":
During the meeting, the mission of the priest “as a Bearer of the Divine Mercy” was discussed in-depth in a spiritual, fraternal and comfortable environment, in which sense of humor was not excluded. The participants shed the light on the spiritual, pastoral, cultural, educational and social challenges facing them during their priestly services; especially that Iraq and the region are going through such a difficult situation.
His Beatitude started the meeting with a speech entitled "Lines of Strength as a Road Map" stressing the importance of the spiritual life of the priest that makes him attached to Jesus Christ. The speech highlighted also, the significance of standing by the community in their suffering as well as engaging lay people in the mission of the Church.
The following session was moderated by His Excellency Bishop Yousif Toma about the "Priest in the Light of the Writings and Speeches of Pope Francis".
Later on, the participants were distributed into groups, to discuss and answer a questionnaire prepared by His Excellency Bishop Bashar Matti Warda on the topic of “The Priesthood: Aspirations and Concerns”.
In conclusion, the following decisions were agreed upon as a first step:
1. Bishops have to be committed for the sustainable reforming of their priests by holding regular meetings and inviting clergy who are specialized in this field.
2. The Chaldean Patriarchate has to organize an annual spiritual retreat that brings all the Chaldean clergy in Iraq together. For this year, it will be on 19 – 22 September on the subject of the “Priest, the Holder of Divine Mercy”.
3. Form a committee of priests to follow-up on all sides of sustainable reforming of a priest as a human, in addition to his spiritual, theological and pastoral aspects.
4. Endorse the fact that priestly services are free, in particular, sacraments that cannot be sold or bought, as is the case at all the Iraqi Chaldean Dioceses. Therefore, the diocese should guarantee a reasonable salary that assures a decent life for the priest (i.e. one million ID a month for a celibate priest and one million two thousand ID for the married priest).
5. Activate the Patriarchal Synod decisions in "transferring priests every six years to serve in the parishes of the same diocese". It is important also and based on the law that a priest is not allowed to move from one diocese to another without the permission of his bishop and the approval of the bishop who receives him.
6. Confirm the participation of lay people (of both genders) in the parish and diocese councils. Especially because the church canons recommend that faithful are partners and have the right to express their opinion. Lay People could help the clergy in their mission based on the grace given to each one of them.
7. Establish a finance committee that works honestly and transparently under the supervision of the bishop.
8. Priests have to coordinate all activities with the bishop of the diocese, who should held regular meetings with his priests to strengthen the fathers – sons relationship between them, since the bishop is the guarantor of unity and the guardian of the diocese. The bishop is officially responsible for making statements or the press release and not the priests.
9. All participants expressed their support to the community with much love and generosity, especially by helping displaced families and foster their confidence to holdfast onto their land and identity.
His Beatitude concluded the meeting by celebrating a mass at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Ankawa, where all the clergy renewed their full dedication to Christ by being ready to serve with love, as the Gospel recommends.