Rome (AsiaNews) – In its final statement, the Synod of the Church of Iraq and the diaspora stressed reconciliation and forgiveness, unity and cohesion, better training of priests and a greater participation of the laity in the life of the Church. It also called for help for the Chaldean League, a non-party organisation, as a privileged tool to ensure the participation of Christians in political and social life.
Led by Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako, the meeting (24-29 October) brought together 21 bishops from Iraq and diasporic communities. It addressed a number of issues. Those regarding liturgical celebrations and rites were touched but the subject will be addressed by the next Synod.
Synod Fathers acknowledged that the Chaldean Church is experiencing a rough period, exacerbated by the wars that ravaging Syria and Iraq, home to most Chaldeans. Violence and conflict have favoured flight abroad, an exodus of Biblical proportions that has more than halved the Christian population of the region.
Tensions between the patriarch and certain priests (and monks) who left Iraq without the permission of the bishop or their superior were an added source of concern discussed at the meeting.
The Synod was originally scheduled for 22 September in Ankawa, a Christian district in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Eventually, the Assembly was postponed to late October and moved to Rome to facilitate the presence of bishops from Canada, USA and Australia.
The Synod focused on a number of issues, including communion and unity among dioceses, inside and outside Iraq, as well as the tragedy of the tens of thousands of Christian families forced to flee their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains following the advance by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Mar Sako said that meeting’s goal was to give hope to Christians and Muslims, through the strong and dynamic presence the Chaldean Church, and a renewed liturgy.
The Synod’s final statement starts by noting the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, especially in Syria. It goes on to say that it is crucial to provide “material and moral” help to refugees and migrants fleeing from IS violence in Mosul and Nineveh Plains.
Noting such efforts, Patriarch Sako praised the work of bishops and priests in raising public awareness about the tragedy and thanked "those who provided assistance so far."
As they reiterated the principles of unity, reconciliation and forgiveness, the Synod Fathers ruled that in the future priests and monks would not be accepted in dioceses, often in the diaspora, without the consent of the bishop of their diocese of provenance, as decreed in 2013 Synod.
The patriarch and bishops set up an ad hoc committee for scholarships, called for the Sabbath to be treated as a day of rest to study and pray, as well as other activities like learning a foreign language, and encouraged greater participation by the laity in the life of the Chaldean Church.
They also called for the implementation of "financial transparency" in the management of each diocese. Similarly, they said that they approved setting up a "uniform system" for all Chaldean dioceses in the world, under the guidance of Bishops Sarhad Jammu and Michel Qasarji.
In addition, the Synod Fathers said that "confusing" articles and writings should not be published. Instead, material that “spread the faith and moral conscience” should be encouraged.
Lastly, Mar Sako and the bishops called for greater support for the Chaldean League, a non-party organisation designed to encourage political and social participation by Christians in their native lands. They also called for the reintroduction of the practice of anointing with holy oil.