In the letter to the faithful, the Cardinal recalls the Pope's visit in March, an opportunity to "be brothers". Christians and Muslims must be "at the service of each other" like "members of teh same family". Despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, the faithful will be able to find"a source of hope and strength" in the celebration.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Christmas is a propitious time "for reconciliation and to achieve peace," writes the Chaldean patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako in his Christmas letter to the faithful, recalling the apostolic letter "Fratelli tutti" in which Pope Francis invites us to "be brothers, rather than fight each other".
He continues "Christians and Muslims should leave their differences aside, love and serve each other as family members. Let us join hands as one team to change our situation and overcome these crises and give the priority to our homeland, by mutual respect that consolidate values of coexistence."
For Iraqi Christians the Christmas holidays represent a double celebration: because, for the first time, it will be a celebration of the whole nation, without making distinctions between Christians and Muslims. A joy and satisfaction that are the prelude to the visit by Pope Francis, who in early March will make an apostolic journey - the first abroad since the beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic - to the Arab nation, touching symbolic places: from Baghdad to Mosul, passing through Ur dei Caldei and the plain of Nineveh, the cradle of the Christian presence in the country.
The Patriarch writes: "For the past two decades, we have celebrated Christmas in an insecure condition that continue to worsen significantly in 2020 due to Corona pandemic in an unprecedented way. Moreover, we were obliged to suspend prayers and pastoral activities in our Churches since March 2020 for the safety of our people.".
In a critical context, Card Sako continues, the faithful "we, faithful should focus on the meanings of Christmas rather than on the “appearance” of our celebration, which would be restricted also, because of Corona. However, despite all the circumstances, Christmas remains a source of hope and strength to restore spiritual serenity through our intimate celebration within the family and the Church community based on the real meaning of Christmas, so that the birth of Christ will be in our hearts and our families, filling us with the grace of confidence."
Retracing the life of Jesus, the cardinal exhorts us to "to show solidarity with each other and extend a helping hand to the needy, especially unemployed, and students struggling with Corona pandemic consequences to continue their studies." In this sense, the over 150 thousand dollars allocated by the patriarchate in favor of the needy, without distinction ”between Christians and Muslims, fall within the framework.
Faith, prayer and charity are the means to prepare for the feast of Christmas and the new year, with the hope that "God will fill our hearts with graces and blessings". “We ask God - concludes the cardinal - to grant our country and the whole world peace and healing from the new coronavirus pandemic. I also invite you to take advantage of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq, finding creative ways in view of an important event for the country and the [Middle Eastern] region ”.