The West must not remain indifferent….
In an interview with Zenit, Cardinal Louis Raphaël I
Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Iraq, made this appeal
following the July 7, 2018, ecumenical encounter, in which the Pope and
Christian leaders rallied together to reflect on and pray for the Middle
East, in the southern Italian city of Bari, the city of St. Nicholas.
In the interview, the Cardinal discusses the impact of
the encounter, why he has great hope, and what he will express to his
faithful in Iraq. Moreover, he explains why he is convinced ‘there is a
future for the Gospel’ in the Middle East, and why what counts more than
numbers is the quality of those witnessing the Gospel in his land.
Here is Zenit’s July 7 interview with the cardinal:
Cardinal Sako, how would you summarize the message launched today in Bari?
I would say first of all
“unity” among the heads of the different Churches and representatives
of different cultures. This unity today was a fact! When we were all
together on the bus, people shouted “unity! Unity!” towards us. I felt
as if I were on Peter’s boat, as if we were all together in the boat,
united! This meeting was already in itself a message, to the whole world
and in particular to our faithful who suffer: “We are close to you, we
pray for you, we think of you, we are at your service!” Pope Francis in his speech during the meeting insisted
on our call to offer human and spiritual closeness to the people, as
pastors … They were powerful moments, which profoundly moved us and left
us with so much hope!
You have not shyed away from stating the problems of the Middle East, starting with the emigration of Christians …
We have talked about
everything, about how the Church is built up, even in the midst of the
difficulties, and the sufferings of our people. A Church that prays,
that is faithful, that hopes, but also a Church at the service of the
people … I am so full of hope, and I return with such strength!
And what will you convey to your faithful in Iraq?
I will speak of the
meeting and unity among the leaders of the Church. After all, I am
convinced of it, we are united in the faith. The differences are
cultural, geographical, but this is normal, because the message of the
Gospel is incarnated in different cultures, through inculturation. But
basically we are united. Then I will say “we are all close to you, at
your service until the end, even to martyrdom. Even today there are
martyrs who shed blood, not just in the past … and we are ready!
Today do you have more faith in the future of the Church in the Middle East…
I am convinced that
there is a future for the Gospel. There are problems but the Gospel is
like the salt and light which Jesus speaks about. Little things, of
course, but the impact and strength do not depend on the numbers. It
depends on the quality of the testimony. You imagine 120,000 people
leaving their homes at night with only the clothes on their backs and
leave everything, leaving the Nineveh Plain and Mosul, to escape. They
are confessors of faith! And the West must not remain indifferent, even
if today it is even ashamed to say that its civilization is Christian …
and this is a shame for me!