Chaldean patriarch tells clergy that, COVID-19 aside, they must be with God and close to the people
For Card Sako, the "difficult circumstances" caused by the novel coronavirus require a new way of being a priest. Believers must be shown the meaning of "fatherhood" and "human and spiritual care". The present must be used for spiritual growth through reading, meditation and prayer. Sharing life provides priests growth opportunities.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – In the "difficult circumstances" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, priests are called to find new ways to show “closeness to people", morally support them, and help them remain "united with God" and "supportive of others,” this according to Card Louis Raphael Sako in a message to the Chaldean clergy.
For the Chaldean primate, priests must seize the opportunity of the ongoing tragedy to rediscover "gifts and what we possess". They can help "better serve the people" following Christ and the men and women religious of the past.
In a message sent to AsiaNews for wider circulation, the cardinal calls on the clergy to "show our believers" the meaning "of fatherhood and human and spiritual care" with sensitivity and tenderness rather than "roughness and criticism" to benefit "those who are close to us”.
The present must be used, as Saint Ephrem teaches, for spiritual growth through reading, meditation and personal prayer. Recently, Card Sako had already noted that the novel coronavirus pandemic could be an opportunity to deepen the faith and build solidarity in society.
In many parts of the country, especially the capital, the situation remains critical. This year, the health emergency has forced the cancellation of annual retreats and community celebrations, including sport and other convivial activities.
In Iraq, the battle against the pandemic is still not over. Confinement, social distancing, and limits on activities are still in place. Prayers, masses and other services are still suspended.
However, "most of our priests remain faithful," notes Card Sako, "engaged" in their mission. “We are proud of this and thank them for the effort they have made” in serving the Church and the community. The primate is less tender for the few who have deserted their parish and diocese, as some have done in the past.
Lastly, the patriarch stresses the importance of priests working and living together as an "opportunity" for growth and as a "blessing".
“I lived most of my priestly years with priests and I learnt a lot from them", said Card Sako. The exchange with others remains alive in his memory.
He urges fellow clergymen to solve problems and meet difficulties "with hope, patience and courage", using a language based on “calm and responsible dialogue".