05/09/2016, 13.50
IRAQ – UNITED STATES
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From Baghdad to San Diego: Mgr Warduni’s appointment to open “new page" with "rebel" diocese

Baghdad's auxiliary bishop takes over from Mgr Jammo, who is retiring. The diocese and the patriarchate were at loggerheads to the point that some feared a possible schism. Mar Sako tells priests and faithful to open "a new page" in relations. Renewing the call to unity, he spoke to the "conscience" of rebel priests and monks to think about “their responsibilities."

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – In his message “To the priests, monks, nuns, deacons, daughters and sons of St Peter the Apostle Chaldean Diocese”, Mar Raphael Louis Sako spoke about the change in leadership in US dioceses.

In it, he called for unity, reconciliation and prayer, for "a new page" in the relationship between the Chaldean Patriarchate and the rebel diocese of San Diego (California). Appealing to the "conscience" of monks and priests who disobeyed the church, he urged them to “think carefully about their responsibilities as consecrated to Christ”.

On Saturday, Pope Francis appointed Mgr Audish Shlemon Warduni, veteran auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and a prominent figure in the Iraqi Church, as the new apostolic administrator. He takes over from "dissident" Bishop Sarhad Jammo Joseph, who resigned for reasons of age.

Recently, the American diocese was at the centre of a tug of war with the leaders of the Chaldean Patriarchate and His Beatitude Mar Raphael Louis Sako. The dispute has been affecting the Chaldean Church for a while. Only recently was the issue settled after a difficult mediation.

The clash between the Patriarchate and the rebel diocese had begun in 2013, when Patriarch Sako, who had just replaced Cardinal Delly, censored Mgr Jammo for accepting priests and monks who had fled Iraq without the permission of their bishops or superiors, and for allowing them to exercise their ministry.

On several occasions, the patriarch ordered the monks and priests to return to Iraq and reminded the recalcitrant bishop of his duty of obedience, to no avail. The crisis, which brought in the Vatican to perform a difficult mediation, raised fears about a possible schism within the Chaldean Church.

More than once, Mar Sako had threatened to resign if his orders were disregarded, because the office of patriarch would be reduced to an “honorific” status.

Mgr Audish Shlemon Warduni, the newly appointed apostolic administrator to the Diocese of San Diego of the Chaldeans, was born on 24 April 1943 in Batnaya, a town in the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. He was ordained priest on 29 June 1968 and appointed bishop on 16 February 2001. For years, he served as auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, and right hand man to Cardinal Delly and his successor, Patriarch Mar Sako.

In his message to the diocese, the Chaldean Patriarch stresses the importance of "unity" for the Chaldean Church, noting that “Our relationships as faithful and clergy should be characterized by love and cooperation to face the accelerating challenges, changes and risks.”

As he renews his call for "reconciliation", His Beatitude notes that a “new page” should open in the relationship between Baghdad and the San Diego community, which should “support and stand by” the brothers and sisters who live in the homeland and face a “serious threat”.

Mar Sako aims his message “to the ‘conscience’ of monks and priests who disobeyed the church and left their dioceses and monasteries,” urging “them to focus on what is more essential, to think carefully about their responsibilities as consecrated to Christ and [. . .] overcome all the obstacles that prevent them from accomplishing their mission profoundly”.

The patriarch wants to see the rebel monks and priests back in Iraq at the disposal of their superiors, “bearing witness to Christ not only by words but by example”.

In expressing his gratitude to Mgr Jammo for his work, the patriarch calls on the community to pray to "the Holy Spirit to inspire the election of an appropriate Bishop for you."

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