09/23/2020, 12.30
IRAQ
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Card Sako: The Church in Iraq needs new male and female vocations (I)

by Louis Raphael Sako*

Emigration and instability have led to drastic shortages in the number of priests and people dedicated to the consecrated life in Iraq. The patriarch calls on parents to encourage and support their children in this choice. Families are the “first place” in which to instill the seed of faith and “nurture it through prayer and contemplation”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Emigration and instability” have led to a “drastic” decline in priestly and monastic vocations, both male and female “in our Church,” says Card Louis Raphael Sako, Primate of the Chaldean Church, in a message to the faithful, especially young men and women.

In his statement, the prelate explores the value of the priesthood or consecrated life, encouraging families to respond to God's call. “There is a shortage in numbers and types, both inside and outside Iraq," he writes.

The “first place” where faith is discovered and deepened is the family. For this reason, parents are tasked with instilling the seed of faith and “nurture it through prayer and contemplation”.

Starting with the Chaldean primate’s appeal, AsiaNews plans to report on the issue of vocations in Iraq, with two more in-depth articles in the coming days. Here is Patriarch Sako’s message:

It is regrettable that priestly and monastic vocations have dropped drastically in our Church in recent years due to conditions that have fuelled emigration and [political and social] instability, and the criticism addressed to the Church and the multiple pressures to which young people are subjected.

Ours is a Church that is going through a real crisis of vocations. There is in fact a great shortage of numbers and types, both inside and outside Iraq. Everyone is looking for priests, monks and nuns.

On the occasion of the beginning of the current academic year 2020-2021, I turn to our young people, men and women, to invite them to be generous for the love of Christ, the Church and society, so that they can dedicate their lives to serve their brothers and sisters.

Whoever loves gives himself in everything. This gift is an act of deep and conscious love, which takes the whole being, thought, memory, heart and feelings. So that, ultimately, one’s life becomes light and full of meaning.

Here I would like to cite Isaiah, in this passage, where he says: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8).

The first place in which the vocation is born and strengthened is precisely that of the family. Parents should take care to implant this sublime goal of faith in the hearts of their daughters and sons, and nurture it through prayer and contemplation of the testimony of people and the great examples of which the Bible speaks. [They should] Observe how they closely followed Jesus and joyfully served him.

At the same time, it is equally important to speak about the experience of priests full of God, whom they know or see. Perhaps, this way, God will allow one of their children to respond to the vocation and become a pastor of his people, or a monk, or one of their daughters may become a Sister or a nun.

The responsibility for participating in vocations also lies with our bishops, priests, monks and nuns. This is why I urge them to organise spiritual activities and make use of the media, old and new, to develop their vocations.

Our society simply needs a priest, a Father, a friend, a teacher, a mentor and a partner, especially in difficult times. The strength of the Church is in people like Christ, who are a source of great love, joy, spirituality, vision, wisdom and courage, so that God may use them to spread goodness.

* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Iraq

(End of Part One)

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