Card Sako issued a message for the Chaldean community in the Iranian capital, which is confidently waiting for a bishop. Its most urgent issues are emigration, embargo and the coronavirus emergency. The strength of the community lies in hope and "their faith”. For the prelate, “we need a local clergy who know the local people, culture and language.”
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Christians in Iran face "multiple challenges,” with emigration at the top. Once 15,000 Chaldeans called the Islamic Republic home; now only 4,000 are left in places like Tehran and Orumiyeh.
Card Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean primate, told AsiaNews, this is cause for concern; so much so that he posted a message to the Christian community in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on the Patriarchate’s website.
"To halt the exodus and strengthen the local community, we need a local clergy who know the local people, culture and language,” said the prelate. This calls for strengthening "vocations, which are few".
One of the priorities for the Chaldean patriarch is the appointment of a bishop for Tehran. In the last Synod "we put forward two names but both have withdrawn their candidacy,” Card Sako explained.
For this reason, "We have to look for suitable people who know the language and the country. At present, there are only three Iranian priests.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and international sanctions have had heavy repercussions on Iran’s economy, affecting the civilian population, including Christians who suffer along with Muslims and Jews.
“The coronavirus has complicated the situation, because borders are closed, and it is almost impossible to get a visa and travel.” Still, “We look forward to the next Synod, when everything is back to normal, and we can appoint a patriarchal administrator” for Tehran.
The new bishop will have the task of “encourage priestly and religious vocations, work with the Sisters present, boost educational initiatives with local schools and support activities, including homes for senior citizens.”
According to the cardinal, there is full religious freedom in Iran, "but the embargo weighs heavily both economically and socially. We Iraqis know it all too well, having experienced it for 12 years.”
Christians, like the rest of the population, "feel very isolated;” for this reason, "we must think of them as a people". Their strength “comes from their faith, the bond with the Gospel, which for them represents a treasure. Their faith is deep and is the most tangible sign of hope. A solution shall come; we just have to wait and pray.”
Card Sako’s message to the Chaldean Diocese of Tehran follows:
Dear Fathers, Nuns, Daughters and Sons of the Blessed Diocese of Tehran
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:3)
I understand your difficult situation, in terms of healthcare and living expenses due to the blockade (embargo) imposed on your country. Hence, I value your faith and your commitment and urge you to work together as a team towards unity, honesty in serving each other with unconditional love.
We pray in the hope that you will be back to your normal life after this “storm”. In the meantime, every one of you is responsible, until the upcoming synod, and the election of a new capable bishop who can serve you with love fairness and humility.
I have also requested from His Excellency, Mgr Leo Boccardi, the Apostolic Nuncio in Iran, to be close to you and help you overcoming any problem. From my side, please be assured that I will keep an eye on Tehran diocese and serve you as much as I can.
United in Christ