I am addressing this letter to the Iraqi Chaldean bishops,
priests and monks, on the occasion of our annual retreat, 4-7 June 2018,
and the upcoming Chaldean Synod, 7-13 August 2018 in Iraq, as well as
the Synod of Catholic Bishops, October 2018, in Rome about “youth, faith
Since there is a thought and a word behind every
action, I chose “Christ is our example and our Hope” as a motto for this
project: “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and curing all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness” (Matthew
I hope you read carefully this text and send the proposals to the Patriarchal e-mail (email@example.com) in order to enrich the initiative.
As we all know, the Church expresses the Christian
conscience wherever they exist. Therefore, it must play a proactive role
in facing, serious changes that have happened and are happening in many
areas of the Iraqi society; the emerging challenges; and the violations
against Christians. All these factors have affected Christians’
existence and relations, negatively. So, the responsibility of the
Church is to define its’ strategy to stand for this motto. Additionally,
it is the Church duty to enhance its presence and firmness.
Under such circumstances, the Chaldean Church and other
Churches should revive all their energies to reflect on and move
forward in a way that surpasses the traditional approach in order to
develop a comprehensive and clear vision that represents a complete
project for coexisting in peace with others so that to: guarantee
Christians’ rights and equality; safeguard their life; protect their
heritage, land, language, faith and their traditions. This is the only
way to build Christians’ momentum, so as to stay on this land and
continue their mission.
The Church should make more thoughtful and systematic
efforts to request laws clearly, recognizing Christians as other
components, rather than considering them as second class citizens.
Especially, that Christians are indigenous people of Iraq, their
churches and monasteries are throughout the country before and after the
arrival of Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula in 637.
Identify the Plan
Our situation as the remainder of indigenous Iraqis in our
homeland, requires a reasonable awareness of our mission, as a Church,
and forces us to put a plan or a comprehensive project that includes
activities in faith, society, culture, and service, based on modern
standards, in addition to a clear and in-depth vision that responds to
the accumulated requirements of the current and the upcoming stages.
Once we do that, we will be able to arise from the status of dispersion,
negligence, sluggishness and migration, in order to restore our role
and vitality as salt, yeast and light, as Christ has called us.
Therefore, I suggest that on this pastoral plan, we should focus on two
entangled and reliant themes: Christian formation and the charity
As long as the Church is considered as Mater et Magistra.
I hope that through this plan, the young people will receive the
attention they deserve, as they have creative talents to be invested
properly. Young people, as Pope Francis has repeatedly declared, are the
ones who open the door of hope at a time of crisis, and that the
Church, which does not dare to open up new ways, is governed by aging.
Therefore, the Church must encourage young people to engage in social
work and the political field in order to build peace, justice and active
participation in the service of people in our societies. Hence, we hope
that the Synod of the Catholic Bishops, that will be held in October
2018 in Rome will come up with positive results regarding this concern.
- Christian Formation
Formation is Jesus’ commandment: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16/15).
The church is a “mother and teacher” and the focus of its’
mission should be discipleship. This was confirmed and documented by the
Universal Church in the Second Vatican Council and also through the
Popes’ letters, which emphasize the importance of educating the faithful
to live their faith happily and peacefully, and convey it to their
children: “Let the Word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with
you. Teach each other…” (Colossians 3/16). I would like to highlight
here the importance of benefitting from “social media” that are
accessible to the general public and can be harnessed for the purposes
of proper formation.
To form the faithful at all their categories, we need
new programs that are different from the previous ones. Programs that
sound philanthropic, and deals with profound Christianity far from the
superficiality and routine.
Faith is a relationship of love and sincerity, not
information to be learned by heart. Faith is a personal relationship
with Jesus Christ, who we love, admire, adore and proceed with joy to
tell others about what we have experienced (see the text of Emmaus
disciples, Luke 24).
In order for the faithful, to deepen and take roots of their faith in their daily lives, we need a sustainable formation
by organizing: courses in Bible, theology, pastoral care; retreat;
summer camps; pilgrimage visits to the numerous shrines and monasteries
in our country; publishing books and magazines; establishing websites;
and opening public libraries in addition to schools, institutes and
universities to become spiritual and human enlightening centers.
This sustainable formation takes place through the
development of comprehensible programs for catechism: (word and
meaning), train an efficient team, and an appropriate environment.
Therefore, we need a pastoral center in our parishes (halls, meeting
rooms, playgrounds, stadium, art arena media facilities. We will achieve
that in Baghdad.
In such formation project, the liturgy has the
priority, in order to prepare faithful by providing courses for those
who are going to be baptized, having their first communion, getting
married, and for families. However, celebrating the mass on Sundays and
feasts; as well as the daily morning and evening prayers; and special
texts for children, youth and elderlies, are not less important.
Hence, liturgy is the occasion in which we learn our
faith and practice it on daily life. It is worth mentioning that we have
in Baghdad a “Center for Christian Eastern Studies”, focusing on this
formation; and Institute for Deacons Preparations. In addition to the
Institute for Christian Education in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Dohuk. We
also have Babel College for Philosophy and Theology and Catholic
University in Erbil.
I would like here to urge all our dioceses to form
committees that could be in charge with all these aspects and prepare
such important celebrations.
The following are some fundamental questions that we must do our best to answer them:
- Has the Mass been truly prepared to be celebrated as a feast?
- Are the Mass and other “religious rites” considered occasions for
prayer and participation so that the life of faithful become a liturgy?
- Have the symbols of our liturgy, their meanings, moves and the
beauty of its art been explained and understood? or it is just a
- Do faithful grow in prayer, as individuals, family, and as a
community? Do they know how to pray and how to teach their children
Thus, we believe it is nice to be concerned about the
rituals, but don’t you feel the absence of an essential element in the
heart of our Christian life, which is mainly participation of faithful
and the highlight of whom we are celebrating for.
Accordingly, I sincerely encourage our priests and
deacons to pay attention to these aspects and others, such as organizing
special prayers: such as, prayer of the heart, silent prayer,
spontaneous prayer, the rosary and other prayers exercised by the
confraternities. All this requires a quick movement of renewal,
programming and effort. The world is moving forward, and the Church must
keep progressing and move to fulfill its mission and education. This is
an opportunity that we should not miss.
- Charity Service & Social Work
“In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25/40).
Our faith is the engine of our service. The Church
community is the channel of mercy and the place where we can practice
and live our faith that works through love (Galatians 5/6). When the
community is alive, we feel the joy of meeting, sharing and the warmth
of solidarity. Generally, the sacraments, and the Eucharist (Mass), in
particular, assumes dynamism. However, the vitality of this
relationship “this sharing” fills us with God “the love and mercy”.
We need to know the Church’s social teaching,
especially that Pope Francis calls us frequently to: open the door of
our hearts and our Churches to our poor brothers; reveal their
suffering; and highlight their issues and their needs, whether they are
displaced, orphans, widows, lonely, and elderly people, in order to help
them, as Jesus did and the International and local relief services are
doing, such as Caritas.
Service required essential characteristics such as
openness, welcoming, listening and generosity, knowing that faith and
prayers make the heart humble and open. Therefore, it is the duty of our
churches to attract people rather than distancing them, since many who
are outside the Church have moved away because of those who are within.
If the Church in Iraq was not present to follow up on
the needs of the displaced people in Mosul and the towns of Nineveh
Plain from the first day of the crisis, we would have lost our land,
heritage and identity. Moreover, there is still a long way to go, in
terms of supporting these families who wish to remain in their homeland,
despite the exceptional circumstances they are going through.
The following are some of their needs:
- Restoring their homes and developing their towns, which have not received the necessary attention for many years.
- Providing adequate conditions to keep their dignity by improving
their living conditions and to find effective means for responding to
- Establishing a training and counseling center for psychosocial
support, organize workshops to acquire skills and vocational training,
in addition to cultural, health, social, youth and women centers to
empower women. It is important to create investments and employment
The purpose from all above, is to create a responsible
interaction between Church leaders and the faithful in order to
consolidate the message of our existence on our land “as Christians and
witnesses of faith”. Here I stress the importance of involving the
Chaldean League in this pastoral and humanitarian work, since it is
considered as a humanitarian, cultural and social institution.
How do we do this?
- Establishing a high committee of academics and active persons to
identify and study the needs and challenges to provide solutions
appropriate to the environment of each region. The Church cooperates
with the committees in all this.
- Forming a Supreme Finance Committee that endeavor to find the
necessary funding from the State, churches and charities. Such committee
should be composed of professional, impartial and dedicated persons to
ensure transparency and accountability.
- Setting up a media center to cover all these different activities
and so on to make the voice of Christians around the world heard.
Which Spirituality do we Proceed?
- Prayer: Whenever we think of such projects, we
should pray first, as Christ prayed (Luke 6/12), since the light of God
will bless our work.
- Inner Unity: “The whole group of believers was
united, heart and soul..” (Acts 4/32). Once we put our differences
aside, for the common good. we will be stronger together.
- Cooperation of Clergy and Faithful: As long as we
are all partners, blessed with different talents, each one of us can
contribute in building the whole community, accordingly. “On each one of
us God’s favor has been bestowed in whatever wayChrist allotted
it” (Ephesians 4/7). There is an urgent need in some of our dioceses to
lift the injustice of laypeople to perform their Christian mission,
since they have been baptized and gifted with their “Royal” priesthood:
“But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a
people to be a personal possession ” (1 Peter 2/9). It is also
important, to listen to the frequent calls of the Holy See, regarding
the support of the so-called women “Charisma” especially for the
faithful women to spread the word of God, including the momentum to be
given to the women’s orders to carry out their role in the midst of the
faithful community, so their contribution would come out as fully and
broadly as possible.
- Spirit of Ecumenism, especially with Muslims with
whom we have humanitarian, social and national ties. It is the duty of
the Church to seek effective partnership with them in many areas,
particularly with regard to the defense of equality, social justice and
peaceful coexistence, and to stand united against exclusionary hatred
CONCLUSION: I am thinking of
organizing an extended seminar, including the dioceses, some priests,
laypeople, and representatives of other Churches.