Patriarch Sako: The flame of hope lights up Christmas for Iraqi Christians
by Mar Louis Raphael I Sako
In his message to the faithful during Advent, His Beatitude calls for "courage" and "perseverance", following the example of Abraham. He urges the faithful to keep the faith alive, even amid "suffering, anxiety and the considerable challenges." He also calls on "fellow" Muslims to join and be part of a true "peace project" for the country.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - In his Christmas message, Mar Raphael Louis Sako, Patriarch of Chaldeans knocks on doors of Christians, urging them to be steadfast and keep the faith alive even amid "suffering, anxiety and the considerable challenges."

Despite a difficult time for Iraq's Christian minority, which has seen its size cut by half in the past ten years, Mar Sako expressed hope that the festivity, his first as patriarch, would be the "title of a real vital project that is achieved only by the one who understands it and finds in it his delight, and courage to go further."

His Beatitude's message is also directed at "fellow" Muslims, whom he urges to work and contribute to a "peace project" because "the Good News of Christmas is for all."

Likewise, he also calls for an end to violence, to be replaced by a "logic of dialogue" that is a source of real reconciliation of the country's various groups.

Turning finally to his community, the patriarch thanked its members for their "perseverance", and for the "courage" with which they bear witness to the "flame of hope", following the example of Abraham.

Here is His Beatitude Mar Sako's Christmas message:


Sisters and Brothers,

Here I am knocking your doors on this Christmas Eve, to tell you, in the midst of your suffering, anxiety and the considerable challenges you face: "Glory to God in the highest and peace on Earth".

I am sure of your belief, prayer, and firmness. Thank you for your perseverance, as you are still carrying courageously the flame of hope as on the example of our father Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was one, and you are many; he became the father of all believers because of his confidence and fidelity till the end.

The message of Christmas is not just a wish, but a title of a real vital project that is achieved only by the one who understands it and finds in it his delight, and courage to go further. He who stops upon the frustrating circumstances and bemoans the old days is making a fatal error.  The one, who enters to the depth of events, will discover a new call, new signs of hope for new life.  If the young rich man, who met Jesus, had sold everything with joy, he would have feasted and got freedom and peace, and wouldn't have "gone sad" (Luke, 18:18-23).

The question before us today is: "What will be the implications of this feast on us, our families, our Church and our country? Shall we renew our determination to carry the joyful message of the Angels which we, the Chaldeans, begin our daily prayers with,   through our prayers, love, service and witnessing to our Faith and our values at home, school and work, by being the shepherds who repeat what they've heard, and the visiting Magi, and a star that stands 'above where the boy was', guiding other people to Him?

To all of you I offer my gratitude for your dedication to your church, you're sticking to your land, and your steadfastness in front of difficulties with true hope and great testimony. Christmas as pope Francis said is a meeting.

On this occasion I am happy to call on our fellow Muslims to join the peace project, because the good news of Christmas is for all. I invite them to work together to stop the logic of violence, fighting and attacks, and to adopt the logic of dialogue to achieve peace, stability, freedom, dignity and justice in our countries enflamed by conflicts.

Blessed is your feast, and hopefully every year will come will be filled with goodness, and safety and prosperous to Iraq.