Baghdad (AsiaNew) - Creating a "competent" Christian political class, training well-prepared priests, boosting the faithful's role as a "bridge between cultures" and partner with Muslims, reviving the ecumenical movement by opening a "brave and honest dialogue with the Church Assyrian Church of the East" are but some of the issues mentioned in the final paper issued by the Synod of the Chaldean Church, held on 5-10 June in Baghdad.
As chair of the assembly of Fathers, which brought together all the bishops of Iraq and the Diaspora, except for Mgr Sarhad Jammo from California, the Chaldean Patriarch, His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, used the occasion to present his thoughts on "the bishop's pastoral work", whose success depends on "spirituality and prayer," not on "administrative work alone."
The Synod, which saw the leaders of the Chaldean Church address a number of issues, ended with a dinner given by the patriarch. Political and religious leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, took part in the repast. The patriarch used the venue to propose a committee to promote dialogue.
In their final paper, the Fathers expressed "regret for the violence in the region, especially in Syria" and said that they would pray that "Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, the two kidnapped bishops, be released."
Invoking the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary "on the children of the homeland and the diaspora," the prelates said that they supported political action by "lay people" and the establishment of " cultural and social centres as well as schools where to teach our language".
They also went along with what Patriarch Sako had already said, namely that the clergy must "engage in priestly vocation and services" and give their support to (Christian) politicians in the defence of "the dignity and rights of the people."
Renewing the "structures of the Patriarchate" is one of the many challenges that lay ahead. Inspired by the motto "Authenticity, Unity and Renewal" His Beatitude chose at the time of his election, this renewal will affect the way the Patriarchate and all the dioceses, religious orders and church institutions are organised.
With this comes a commitment to train the clergy and nurture religious and priestly vocations. However, "the ordination of priests should not be done in a rush just to fill pastoral vacancies". Good solid training is needed to avoid "negative repercussions for the Church."
The Synod Fathers also raised some questions about the practice of moving priests from one diocese to another "without the permission of the bishop", a practice that "undermines the priestly service". For this reason, they call on the dioceses not accept "priests without the permission of their bishop."
Among the topics for reflection, "the Christian presence in Iraq" took centre stage. Even though half of the community left in the past ten years, Christians are and will continue to be "a bridge between communities" and work to "strengthen mutual coexistence and raise the voice of truth vis-à-vis ongoing changes."
As the last item, Patriarch Sako and the bishops turned to the contents of the letter sent to Pope Francis through the papal nuncio to Iraq, Mgr Giorgio Lingua. In their message, the Synod Fathers "express love" for the Pontiff and "respect for his points of view, which encourage openness and dialogue between nations."
* Fr. Zarazeer Albert, head of communications of the Chaldean Patriarchate