The upcoming Chaldean synod will focus on a new bishop for the Diocese of San Diego, liturgy renewal, help for Mosul refugees, and beatification of Chaldean martyrs. For the Chaldean primate, “closer and more effective action among bishops” and a united position on the country’s political future and the role of Christians are needed.
Erbil (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako is currently taking part in a spiritual retreat “with all the clergy of Iraq” ahead of next synod set for 22-28 September in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate said that the synod is "important" to boost Chaldean Church "unity", starting with the "choice of a new bishop" for the Diocese of San Diego, which has been caught up in a dispute that pitted it against the patriarchate, as well as action to "stop the flight of priests and monks from Iraq". Such a trend is grave and "should not happen again”.
As the Patriarch requested, the meeting will focus on "unity and communion among dioceses" for the "good of the faithful." Likewise, he urges "priests to help displaced families support the burden of their condition."
The discussion will also cover initiatives in favour of refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain, the beatification of Chaldean martyrs and the still present challenge of emigration. Other issues are the renewal of the liturgy and the future of the plain of Nineveh, which the Chaldean Patriarch recently addressed in an appeal.
The Chaldean clergy is meeting in a spiritual retreat before the Erbil synod to remind the priests to rediscover the value of silence, thanks to which one can fully enjoy the deep sense of reflection and prayer. At the same time, this can highlight the meaning of confession, repentance and change that can be achieved only in the rediscovery of a deeper faith.
In the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Francis, a merciful style of living is a "sacred duty", which comes with the task of educating the flock. "Priests hold compassion,” Mar Sako noted, “and must know how to love and forgive as God loves and forgives."
The Chaldean Synod will also address with particular attention the issue of the new bishop of the Diocese of St Peter the Apostle in San Diego, United States, currently led by Mgr Shlemon Audish Warduni, the long time auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and prominent figure in the Iraqi Church.
Mgr Warduni replaced "rebel" bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo, who left recently upon reaching the age of retirement of 75.
The diocese has long been at the centre of tensions with the Chaldean Patriarchate leadership for accepting priests and monks who left Iraq without the permission of their bishops and superiors.
The Chaldean patriarch calls on the faithful in San Diego "to pray for the choice of the new bishop," that he may provide steadfast and strong "intellectual, spiritual and pastoral guidance".
He also called for renewed unity after months of tensions that had taken the semblance of mini-schism.
Another topic that will take centre stage is the beatification of Chaldean martyrs. They include the victims of the Assyrian-Chaldean genocide of 1915 in what is now modern Turkey, as well as the more recent martyrs, including Fr Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean priest killed in Mosul in front of his church in 2007, and Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, then archbishop of the diocese, who died in captivity a year later.
Looking at the topics, Mar Sako said that it is important to rethink "the organisation of the Chaldean Church, the links among dioceses, and closer and more effective action among bishops, to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful and displaced families."
For the prelate, another important issue "is the political situation in Iraq," to which the Synod and the Christian leadership must respond with "a wise, realistic and clear position" ahead of the liberation of Mosul.
The Chaldean patriarch warns that "Christians will have big problems if they do not find a unified position." He does not spare criticism for those from the "outside" who propose solutions – like the idea, recently revived by a group of US lawmakers, of creating an enclave for religious minorities, including Christians in the Nineveh plain – "without a real grasp of reality."
"One thing is the media and plans when the situation in practice is quite different" he warns. “Issues like security and local administration must be addressed in a still fragile political and social context.”
"Iraqis must talk to each other,” the patriarch said, “discuss and decide what to do, [choose] a federation, a unitary state or separation. However, even before all this, there must be liberation" from terrorism and internal and external violence. "We must be united to throw out the terrorists and reclaim the land, then prepare a national dialogue to find the most appropriate solutions."
On 25 September, a meeting will be held as part of the Erbil Synod to discuss the Chaldean League, an organisation Mar Sako has forcefully pushed for, set up in July 2015 to protect and promote the "social, political, and economic" rights of the Chaldean community, whilst remaining separate from political parties or movements involving individual Christian activists.