06/11/2013, 00.00
IRAQ
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Patriarch Sako calls on religious and political leaders to set up a committee to promote dialogue

by p. Albert Zarazeer
His Beatitude brought together political and religious leaders to revive the peace process; among them, Prime Minister al-Maliki, who thanked the Patriarch Sako and the Christian community, for their role as an essential "bridge" between faiths and cultures. The meeting took place at the conclusion of the Synod of the Chaldean Church.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Strengthening national unity and fostering dialogue among the various fronts, in the footsteps set in the past few days by Ammar Al-Hakim, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is what inspired Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako to invite to dinner last night at a hotel in the Green Zone in Baghdad, political and religious leaders, including the Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, "the first" to accept the invitation of His Beatitude (pictured). In the context of this initiative, Mar Sako said he hoped to see the birth of a "committee" to boost the work of dialogue and encounter between the country's various souls: Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish.

Held in a convivial atmosphere, the meeting was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Salih Al-Mutlaq, Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Affairs Commission Chairman Roz Shaois Noori, Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for energy Hussein al-Shahristani, as well as other important ministers in the Iraqi government, as well as representatives of religious minorities, members of parliament and heads of Christian churches; among them the Fathers of the Chaldean Synod who, yesterday afternoon, completed the First Synod of the Chaldean Church under the leadership of the new Patriarch.

After the national anthem, His Beatitude Sako gave a short speech, in which he encouraged peace initiatives, inviting all those present to adhere to the virtue of love. As "all religions teach," he suggested the creation of a committee for peace and dialogue to promote a path towards the nation's true redemption. Despite differences in faith, he assured everyone's "prayer" for true interfaith harmony.

Thanking "on behalf of myself and my brothers Chaldean bishops" those who came for the evening, "which comes from our hearts and patriotism", Patriarch Sako cited some verses from the Holy Scriptures "on charity", which is "patient, serves, is not disrespectful and does not pursue its own interests," and "also" endures all things and will never end."

In view of these words, the Chaldean Patriarch said he hoped that "our leaders would walk along the path of dialogue, national cohesion and for the activation of mechanisms" that facilitate these relationships in a perspective of "unity and stability."

For His Beatitude, the goal of peace can only be achieved through "frank and brave" dialogue that can "put to an end to divisions."

"From this point of view," he added, "we propose the establishment of a committee to foster dialogue" that would include "the prime minister, the speaker of the Council of Representatives (parliament), and the president of the Kurdistan Region."

For our part, he noted, "we ensure you our prayers in our churches and our mosques, accompanying you with our hope."

Lastly, he extended his best wishes to Iraqi President Jalal Al-Iraqi Talabani, who is ill, for a speedy recovery.

At the end of the patriarch's address, the choir of the Assumption of Mary Parish Church in Baghdad, accompanied by Fr Robert Saeef, sang songs and hymns, invoking grace and peace for Iraq.

Commenting on the initiative, Prime Minister al-Maliki said, pointing to the Patriarch, "Thank you so much! We need you to build bridges among everyone. Dialogue is the only way to resolve problems."

* Fr Zarazeer Albert, director of communications of the Chaldean Patriarchate

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