(AsiaNews) - "For the Chaldean Church, this is a day of mourning and prayer
so that the soul (of the patriarch emeritus) may rest in peace. However, it is also
a day of remembrance to think about what he went through and suffered during
these years," said Mar Raphael I Louis Sako as he paid tribute to Patriarch
Emeritus Emmanuel III Delly, who passed away last night at a hospital in San
Diego (United States) at the age of 87.
Patriarch Sako told AsiaNews, lived
"more than 60 years as a priest, and 50 years as bishop and patriarch, always
serving the Church in Iraq. Although the situation was very critical, he managed
to stay true to his people and country".
As the guide of
the Chaldean Church, Mar Sako noted, the patriarch emeritus lived through what
for the Chaldean Christian minority and the nation of Iraq was one of their
most difficult historical and political periods. "Even if he could perform miracles,
he was always able to encourage the faithful in a really bad situation. He
really suffered a lot from the wars and the emigration" of Christians.
For the current
Patriarch, his greatest merit was to "remain faithful to the office of
pastor and care for his people. Despite a very difficult situation, he remained
in Iraq and never thought of escaping or shirking his responsibilities."
In many cases, he
acted in person "to pay the ransom for kidnapped priests" when
abducting Christians, even and especially clergymen, became commonplace.
We must learn
from the life and trials of people like Patriarch Delly, who "managed to
remain faithful to [the mission] even in very exceptional times".
Mar Sako said that
a requiem mass would be celebrated in the coming days at St Joseph Chaldean Cathedral
in Baghdad, whilst the funeral will most likely take place in the United
States, where most of the cardinal's family had moved.
"For us Iraqi
Christians," Patriarch Sako said, "we shall remember Cardinal Delly during the
celebrations of the upcoming Holy Week leading to the Easter of Resurrection. This
is crucial time to reflect and pray. We have to think, renew, and accept
suffering, as Jesus did, to be saved."
Emeritus Emmanuel III Delly was born on 27 September 1927, in Telkaif, Archeparchy
of Mosul of the Chaldeans, and was baptised on 6 October of the same year.
He graduated in
theology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University and in canon law from the Pontifical
Lateran University. He also obtained a licentiate in philosophy from Urbaniana.
Ordained as a
priest on 21 December 1952 by Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi in Rome, at the
Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, he returned to Baghdad as
secretary to the Patriarch on 30 December 1960.
He was elected
to the titular see of Paleopolis of Asia on 7 December 1962 as the auxiliary to
Patriarch Paul II Cheikho, receiving his Episcopal ordination on 19 April 1963.
In that same
year, as a bishop, he became a member of the Second Vatican Council, in which
he had first participated as an expert.
In October 2002,
he resigned as auxiliary bishop because of age limits, but a little over a year
later, a few days after the capture of Saddam Hussein, on 3 December 2003, he
was elected patriarch of Babylon by the bishops of the Chaldean Church.
His ministry was
a time ruled by violence and terror, by the exodus of the Iraqi Christian
minority, which lost half of its population following the US military
intervention. This period brought death and destruction and left the country in
With it came bloody
attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul, the kidnapping of priests and
bishops, and the targeted killings of many Catholics.
On 19 December
2012, Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation from the pastoral government
of the Chaldean Church. His successor, Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, archbishop of
Kirkuk, was elected on 30 January of the following year.