Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "Remember always that you are priests!" Therefore, "I invite you to think of the wonderful mission to which you are called" within "the One, Universal, Holy and Apostolic Church," said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Mar Louis Sako in a letter to the Chaldean clergy, published on 31 October and recently sent to AsiaNews.
His Beatitude talks about the ten years of his episcopate, his nine months at the helm of the patriarchal see and the coming final celebrations of the Year of Faith. For this reason, he has decided to address for a second time, after his first letter in May, all the bishops, priests, religious and nuns of the Chaldean community in order to invite them to "prayer and introspection" under the protection "of the Virgin Mary."
In the letter, the Chaldean patriarch notes that the motto and key points of the programme he outlined at the beginning of the mandate included "Authenticity, Unity and Renovation in Spirit and Truth with confidence and joy", and thanked those who had supported him in this mission.
"I am not scared of anyone," Mar Sako writes, "and I will stay faithful to my vocation and my principles whatever the challenges and criticism as there is no life without challenges."
The letter notes, "The Church is not a civil society organisation, nor a non-governmental organization". It is something very different because "its core is Christ."
"The Church is ecumenical in nature and yet comprehensive," Mar Sako explains. "If closed on itself then it loses its identity."
He hopes that the "journey we began nine months ago" will be "fruitful", as will the ascent to the Petrine throne of Pope Francis, which is an invitation "for us to be closer to the Gospel" and build unity "on the basis of truth and justice and not gossip".
For His Beatitude, the task of priests is to be "servants", not princes, even though one's "vocation is from heaven!" Indeed, "We have to be entirely and wholeheartedly for Christ and His Church, otherwise there is no meaning for our consecration!" he explains.
Citing Pope Francis, he goes on to tell the clergy, "You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries".
For him, "true dignity is 'Service'," and "Our priesthood does not give us any immunity". Instead, he warns to be firm in relation "to morals, whatever the rank of the clergy".
In a final reminder about money and material goods, the Patriarch issues a caution. "Let no one seduce you with promises or money!" Financial management requires "full transparency" and must be in the hands of "honest lay people" with business experience, not those of a "bishop or priest".
Lastly, Mar Sako calls on monks "to return to their monastery" and lead a life of poverty, chastity, obedience, in the interests of the community that prays, meditates and works.
In fact, monastic "life cannot be lived in isolation," the patriarch writes. "Living in community boosts your lives," whilst "the grace of living together will allow you to serve God faithfully and your vocation with purity."
Consequently, "Let your life's testimony be a joy, help and nourishment for yourself, your brothers, and the faithful." Also, be "spiritual fathers" to "Our sisters, the nuns".
Mar Sako ends his letter by noting that the season of "Sanctification" is upon "the Chaldean Church". Hence, "let us [. . .] not surrender to sleep or laziness or frustration because of the current circumstances."