Chaldean Patriarch: amid war and crises, Christmas is the Middle East's real hope
by Mar Louis Raphael I Sako
On his first Christmas as patriarch, Mar Raphael Louis Sako I will address the Christians of Iraq, the Middle East and the Diaspora, pointing out that the face of the Child Jesus is a source of wellness and prosperity, for our "Muslim brothers" too. Priests and the faithful must turn churches into "real grottoes," enlivened by the love and warmth of the faith.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - In the Christmas message His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako will address to the faithful during Christmas Mass, which he is sharing with AsiaNews, the Chaldean patriarch focuses on the situation in Iraq, on the suffering of the Christian community as well as the whole population. In it, he calls on the faithful to welcome others through solidarity, unity and hope. He also invites them to look at the child's face, that it may be "a sign for everyone," even for our "Muslim brothers", and a source of "prosperity" for the country and "wellness" for its people.

Hopeful that the festivity will be an opportunity to rediscover the "supernatural presence of God," the Chaldean Patriarch also addresses both priests and the faithful, calling on them to be of "service" so that their churches may become "a real grotto," enlivened "by love and warmth, as well as faith, hope and unity." At the same time, he is also confident that the festivity will generate new "strength" to unite those who have been separated, and bring home the emigrants who left their motherland.

Here is Mar Sako's message:

In the midst of the critical and hard circumstances that we live and experience in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East, our Christmas celebration comes to revive hope within us. Christmas gives us strength and confidence to rebuild what was destroyed during the lean years, and to restore what was deformed, and to join together who were separated, and bring back who had migrated.

The Good News of Christmas night: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on Earth" that the angels proclaimed to all: for Christians and for Muslims and others, is a persistent call to put off and come out of the state of conflict, fighting, worry, fear and poverty, to promote together for the consolidation of peace and brotherhood, justice and equality among all citizens. This matter can be achieved when we open our heart and mind to God and to others and to the universe. And, when we deal with everyone alike respecting their rights and freedoms and diversity, and co-operate with them so that everyone feels that they are children of the one human family and one nation, despite differences of race, nationality, language, religion and opinion.

The Christmas message is clear and required.  Christmas message in our current Iraqi and Middle Eastern situation is: No life without love, and no salvation except through unity.

The Christmas message appeals for us to love each other and welcome each other warmly and share with each other what we have generously and joyfully so that we shall have life, and in abundance. This welcoming is solidarity, unity, hope, consolation and life. In this spirituality, all difficulties can be demolished and new prospects will be opened for us for the future.

Our believe and faith is not measured by the amount of our knowledge, culture, theories and speeches, but measured by our ability to love and to welcome, to share and to unite. Through this faith implies our salvation: National and ecclesial.

From this concept, I call on all our priests and people in service to make from their churches a real grotto that has love and warmth, faith, hope and unity; a grotto (Church) where everyone feels his prestige, importance, and distinctive role, and feels that he is loved!!

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We need to discover in this Christmas in our complex situation, the supernatural presence of God among us in the face of this Baby that is a gift from God.  Isn't every birth a gift from God and joyful occasion? Let the Child Jesus, "A sign for all people" as our brothers the Muslims like to read in their Koran, be a tent that embraces us all, and raises our spirits, nourishes our trust and hope, supports our quest for the prosperity of our country and the well-being of our citizens and preserves their dignity and their freedom.

My warmest Congratulations to all of you of Merry Christmas and happy New Year 2014

May Christmas brings us the gift of peace and stability

And divine blessings for us and our beloved ones, all year through