A new Chaldean Catholic patriarch.
It has been too long since I posted anything on this blog about the beleaguered Christians of Iraq, and for once I'm pleased to report some good news about this venerable and long-suffering community: last week, the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church elected Archbishop Louis Sako as the new Patriarch of Babylon. Seen above with Pope Benedict XVI, Sako will be enthroned later this month as Patriarch Louis Raphaël I, succeeding Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, who retired late last year. The new Patriarch has often spoken out regarding the persecution and violence which have led more than half of Iraq's ancient Christian community to flee into exile over the past decade, and he has not hesitated to criticize Western governments for policy decisions that have only served to worsen the already difficult circumstances of Christians in the Middle East. At the same time, Sako has also emphasized the need for Christians in Iraq to work across confessional lines for "unity and renewal" within the churches and to be "a beacon of hope" in a badly divided country. In short, he seems to be the right leader for difficult times.
The above video from Rome Reports offers a brief look at the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Synod of Chaldean Catholic Bishops following the election of the new Patriarch. To conclude this post, I would like to once again share some moving words from then-Archbishop Louis Sako that I first posted here two years ago:
For us Christians of Iraq, martyrdom is the charism of our Church, in its 2000 year history. As a minority, we are constantly faced with difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that bearing witness to Christ can mean martyrdom. In the Arabic language they have the same root: Shahid wa shahiid!My God strengthen and uphold Patriarch Louis Raphaël I as he assumes the leadership of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and he may he serve as a true prophet of hope and renewal for his flock. AMDG.
. . .
Here in Iraq we understand that faith is not an ideological or theological speculation, but a mystical reality. Faith is a personal encounter with someone who knows us, loves us and to whom we give ourselves totally. For faith, one must always be willing to go beyond, even to sacrifice. Martyrdom is an expression of loyalty to that love. . . .
Christians around the world . . . can renew their faith and their commitment to being in contact with Iraq's persecuted Christians. At the same time, the friendship, solidarity and support of our brothers and sisters of the West gives us the courage to resist and remain in our land and in our churches, continuing our presence and Christian witness. Knowing that you stand by us urges us to cultivate a common life, in peace and harmony with our Muslim brothers.