The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako is currently taking part in a spiritual retreat “with all the clergy of Iraq” ahead of next synod set for 22-28 September in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate said that the synod is
"important" to boost Chaldean Church "unity", starting with the "choice
of a new bishop" for the Diocese of San Diego, which has been caught up
in a dispute that pitted it against the patriarchate, as well as action
to "stop the flight of priests and monks from Iraq". Such a trend is
grave and "should not happen again”.
As the Patriarch requested, the meeting will focus on "unity and
communion among dioceses" for the "good of the faithful." Likewise, he
urges "priests to help displaced families support the burden of their
The discussion will also cover initiatives in favour of refugees from
Mosul and the Nineveh plain, the beatification of Chaldean martyrs and
the still present challenge of emigration. Other issues are the renewal
of the liturgy and the future of the plain of Nineveh, which the
Chaldean Patriarch recently addressed in an appeal.
The Chaldean clergy is meeting in a spiritual retreat before the
Erbil synod to remind the priests to rediscover the value of silence,
thanks to which one can fully enjoy the deep sense of reflection and
prayer. At the same time, this can highlight the meaning of confession,
repentance and change that can be achieved only in the rediscovery of a
In the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Francis, a merciful style of
living is a "sacred duty", which comes with the task of educating the
flock. "Priests hold compassion,” Mar Sako noted, “and must know how to
love and forgive as God loves and forgives."
The Chaldean Synod will also address with particular attention the issue of the new bishop of the Diocese of St Peter the Apostle in San Diego,
United States, currently led by Mgr Shlemon Audish Warduni, the long
time auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and prominent figure in the Iraqi
Mgr Warduni replaced "rebel" bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo, who left recently upon reaching the age of retirement of 75.
The diocese has long been at the centre of tensions with the Chaldean
Patriarchate leadership for accepting priests and monks who left Iraq
without the permission of their bishops and superiors.
The Chaldean patriarch calls on the faithful in San Diego "to pray
for the choice of the new bishop," that he may provide steadfast and
strong "intellectual, spiritual and pastoral guidance".
He also called for renewed unity after months of tensions that had taken the semblance of mini-schism.
Another topic that will take centre stage is the beatification of
Chaldean martyrs. They include the victims of the Assyrian-Chaldean
genocide of 1915 in what is now modern Turkey, as well as the more
recent martyrs, including Fr Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean priest killed in Mosul in front of his church in 2007, and Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, then archbishop of the diocese, who died in captivity a year later.
Looking at the topics, Mar Sako said that it is important to rethink
"the organisation of the Chaldean Church, the links among dioceses, and
closer and more effective action among bishops, to meet the pastoral
needs of the faithful and displaced families."
For the prelate, another important issue "is the political situation
in Iraq," to which the Synod and the Christian leadership must respond
with "a wise, realistic and clear position" ahead of the liberation of
The Chaldean patriarch warns that "Christians will have big problems
if they do not find a unified position." He does not spare criticism for
those from the "outside" who propose solutions – like the idea,
recently revived by a group of US lawmakers, of creating an enclave for
religious minorities, including Christians in the Nineveh plain –
"without a real grasp of reality."
"One thing is the media and plans when the situation in practice is
quite different" he warns. “Issues like security and local
administration must be addressed in a still fragile political and social
"Iraqis must talk to each other,” the patriarch said, “discuss and
decide what to do, [choose] a federation, a unitary state or separation.
However, even before all this, there must be liberation" from terrorism
and internal and external violence. "We must be united to throw out the
terrorists and reclaim the land, then prepare a national dialogue to
find the most appropriate solutions."
On 25 September, a meeting will be held as part of the Erbil Synod to
discuss the Chaldean League, an organisation Mar Sako has forcefully
pushed for, set up in July 2015 to protect and promote the "social,
political, and economic" rights of the Chaldean community, whilst
remaining separate from political parties or movements involving
individual Christian activists.