A Syrian bishop is happy with the election of Archbishop Louis R. Sako as Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church as he believes his experience at building dialogue in Iraq could save the lives of many Christians.
Archbishop Sako of Kirkuk was selected Feb. 1 by his fellow Chaldean
Catholic bishops as the new Patriarch of Babylon, replacing Cardinal
Emmanuel III Delly, 85.
"He is young and involved in conversations with Muslims so we hope we
can achieve this in Syria, too," said Bishop Antoine Audo, the head of
the Diocese of Aleppo in northern Syria.
"We've lost security everywhere, especially in Aleppo. The situation in
the whole country is very bad," he added in a Feb. 1 phone interview
"He knows the situation very well because he was the Archbishop of the Iraqi town Kirkuk for 10 years," Bishop Audo explained.
"But here we will be in communion not just with Muslims, but with all
other Christian denominations and everyone around us," said the
Patriarch Sako told Vatican Radio that Kirkuk does not have any
problems with Muslims, and in several mosques imams speak well of
Christians for their role in bridging the divide.
But the new patriarch said he was reluctant to accept his new role, even though he is ready to offer his life for the Church.
"I hesitated and was afraid because the future is not clear (…) but I
am ready to serve and to give myself up for the benefit of our Church
and of Iraq," he told Vatican Radio.
"Support our religious freedom. There is no one religion of the state
and others of a second category but all should be at the same level,"
said Patriarch Sako.
His appointment brings hope to Christians in Syria, who have been
targeted by radical Islamists since conflict broke out in March 2011.
"I think his appointment is great because he has worked very hard in
the town of Kirkuk for there to be mutual respect between Muslims and
Christians, so he knows how to do it," Bishop Audo remarked.
"We have a lot of poverty everywhere, we have very elementary food, and
I am the president of Caritas in Syria so I have to face this," he said
Around 60,000 people have been killed and two million internally displaced since the war began.
Many now refuse to cross to neighboring Jordan after hearing horror stories of other refugees.
"We fear that we will be like Christian Iraqis, but what can I do?" said Bishop Audo.
"We do all we can to stay and to help our people, but it is beyond our control," he added.