martedì, giugno 21, 2016


Meeting of the Chaldean Priests 20 – 21 June 2016, Ankawa, Erbil “Lines of Strength as a Road Map”

By Chaldean Patriarchate

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

Meeting, as bishops and priests, at Saint Peter’s Patriarchal Seminary and the Patriarchate Summer Headquarters is a conscious return to the fountain of our faith, and to the roots of our genuine Church. This meeting is aiming to renew our commitment to Christ and in serving people with love in the midst of such extremely difficult circumstances, where Iraqis, especially Christians are overwhelmed with fears and worries.
We pray humbly for the Blessed Virgin Mary to keep an eye on this meeting. At the same time, we meditate and reflect deeply on her faith, love, openness, service and hope, as a role model to be followed.
Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, this meeting provides an excellent opportunity for us to read together the reality in a way that will enable us to evaluate our mission, our performance and be opened to the new possibilities in order to equip the Christian people, who have been suffering all this time, with hope and confidence. We realize that we have a long “spiritual” way to go on the steps of Jesus Christ, inspired by the Gospel that has been implanted in this land and watered by the blood of our martyrs.
Iraqi Christians as a good-hearted people are expecting from this meeting: Spiritual, liturgical and pastoral reforms that may fit-in with their current situation and enable them to bear out their mission courageously. These reforms may help them also to continue making history and to bridge the gap with their fellow citizens through enhancing cooperation and co – existence, rather than retreating.
So, we should carry this concern in our mind and heart with determination and persistent to prepare the Chaldean Church for an important phase of restoration and renewal. So, the church would become present, effective and impacted in a way that these conditions will lead to God of life, resurrection and renewal  (which is the motto of our church).
Thank God that we have an enthusiastic team who feel the pain and are keen to serve and do something beautiful! Therefore, I would like to call on everyone to rise to the level of his responsibility taking into consideration the following “lines of strength” that is essential for renewing our commitment:
First: Renew Our Consecration to Christ
Jesus Christ must have the priority in our mind, hearts, approach and service. We should ensure that we will embody this “pledge” in Iraq, which requires seriosity; follow up; as well as honest, transparent and ongoing update. In addition, our consecration needs to be enriched and nurtured by individual and community prayers: I warn our priests from having “empty heart”, but to be guided by the following sentence that summarizes the priestly spirituality "There is nothing on earth more precious to God than a monk on his knees, praying unceasingly"
Second: Gospel is Our Cause
Our evangelical service is not a business and should be unconditional, voluntary, honest and full of God’s light. That might touch the hearts of our displaced people and deals with their related worries of immigration and returning home. Keeping in mind that migration of Iraqi Christians means that, our traditions, values and heritage will melt gradually and the country will become like a story from the past!
Third: Support Our People
We need to show solidarity with our people in their suffering and pain by keeping our doors open, responding to their different needs, practicing virtual patience and listening to them as fathers with a shiny face, especially with those who are struggling. Hence, we cannot isolate ourselves from the community, knowing that we are from them and for them.
Pope Francis tackled this subject with the priests who participated in the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Rome (4 June 2016)
2, by encouraging clergy to be close to the people entrusted to them by God through the church and not to exclude anyone from their hearts, prayers and smiles. Also, reminded the priests to accept, integrate and discipline their people by a glance of love and a heart of a father, understanding that their mission is to be servants of comunionship they celebrate and live, listening patiently to their problems, accompanying them and granting a divine forgiveness with compassion and generosity.
Fourth: Never Dispense with Faithful “the Church”
We as a community of "God's people" gathering around Jesus and granted “a Royal Priesthood”
3 should not confine our mission and service to the patriarch or bishop or priest, as a person but rather to feel that we as a cohort are responsible for the sustainability and the progress of our Church. Furthermore, we need to integrate lay people of both genders in the Church mission, education and service, based on the grace given to each one of them in order to spread the Gospel and build the kingdom of God. For example, lay people can be involved in the diocese and parish councils and committees as well as participating in the cultural, educational, charitable and social activities.
Fifth: Never Forget that Sacraments are Free
Sacraments are a free gift from God that nobody can sell or buy. In order for the priests to deserve the priesthood identity!; they should have an attractive, deep and spiritual touch in celebrating the sacramental prayers; never get attached to money or other material things; live an ascetic life that enables them to serve as a full-time dedicated, to be eligible for entering the Mystical Mystery and “the Sacred History”.
Sixth: Church Mission is always Up-to-date
Church is a dynamic community and its’ mission is characterized by vitality, enthusiasm and creativity. In addition and based on the fact that the “Good News” is for all mankind at all times and places, church must never fear “Newness” since it is a decree of life and the essence of Christianity. However, newness shouldn’t be superficial or external, but rather a thoughtful and authentic, as projected strongly by the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium). Pope Francis highlighted the importance of renewing in the church, during the Sermon of Easter Eve 31 March 2013: "Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives”
4. Therefore, I believe that updating of liturgy helps faithful understand and apply it on their daily life, especially that our liturgy is mostly dated back to the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Thus, liturgy has not to be limited to one particular text only and it is not right to say that “liturgical text cannot be touched or translated”. Such mentality is intolerant and not in line with the Gospel: "the Sabbath was made for a man"5.
Seventh: Rising above Differences
With love and cooperation, we will be able to leave our differences behind, cleanse our thoughts, carefully select our approaches and learn lessons from our mistakes to live with each other in one spirit. Love is an openness that frees us from pride and selfishness and all what has been accumulated within us. This kind of conscious openness will help each one of us to understand his skills, weaknesses and disabilities. It will also make us stand firm in humility and gratefulness that will end up in fruitful integration. Therefore, it is necessary that we work on ourselves, and form our hearts sustainably with a renewable education. Knowing that compassion (even mercy) alone does not help us grow up nor build us! We need also to refine our temper so that we may live in peace with ourselves and with whom we serve, as we become their role model! Let us get used to have words of politeness, encouragement and admiration with our co-workers such as, thank you, please, well done, "bravo".
I hear sometimes people saying that I am “strict”, but aren’t we in need to have authority? (not domination / dictatorship) until we reach the balance – maturity, especially in this society that tends to call chaos / freedom and independence / boldness.
Eighth: Self Review
Unfortunately, some people in the church think that they are better than others, criticize everything, and consider their word as “order”. These people are self-centered, overload themselves and hinder the work! I invite them all to be released from this self-esteem and arrogance that means / death, so they can be filled with God’s grace! Let us meditate on the warning of Pope Francis from being obsessed by authority (position), money, pride and arrogance
6. Jesus says: "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted"7.

Ninth: Priests and their Bishop, Strings and Harp
I am saddened by the departure of some priests from their dioceses seeking refuge in the west and we hope that would never happen again. On the other hand, I extend my sincere thanks to the majority of our courageous priests who remained, with their bishops, firm and honest in serving their community in spite of the difficult circumstances. On this occasion, I invite priests; to gather around their bishop in performing their mission and their service as one team; to coordinate their activities with him because the bishop is the guarantor of unity and the guardian of the diocese; and to strengthen the fathers – sons relationship based on trust, obedience and love through sharing, service and cooperation, as recommended by Ignatius of Antioch: "you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop … as the strings are to the harp"
8. At the same time, I call on all bishops in both patriarchal territories and the diaspora to be around their Patriarch and deepen their unity with him as "the father and the head". Additionally and because we, as a church, are experiencing difficulties, I invite bishops to share with the Patriarch the burden of the church’s aspirations in education, spiritual formation, organization and institutional work. I also urge them to have an active and responsible involvement at the synod, which strengthens the collegiality, and enhances friendship as well as reinforces the ties of unity among us.
Conclusion: Let us learn from Pope Francis’ experience in simplicity, humility and warmth of love to reveal the face of Gospel’s Christ via his voice and his life. Let us follow Pope’s example in serving Jesus with a new way of thinking and approaching as well as an ongoing search for new things to serve our brothers and offer assistance to them due to their poverty, worries and suffering so that our church can witness the love, mercy and resurrection of Christ forever.
1 Ibrahim Alnathfary, Louis Sako, Syriacs’ Fathers, Dar El-Mashreq, Beirut, 2012, p. 253.
2 Speech to Priests Saturday, 4 June 2016 on the occasion of their participation at the Jubilee year of Mercy:
3 1 Peter
4 Sermon on the Easter Eve 3/31/2013,
5 Mark 2/26
6 Speech in the Chapel of St. Martha17/5,
7 Matthew 23/12.
8 Agnatius of Antioch, martyr in 107, Ephesus 4/1

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