Baghdad -- Attention to young people through "numerous spiritual and cultural activities" and the defense and resettlement of many "Christian churches and properties" in Baghdad and across the country, that were damaged or destroyed by jihadist madness: These are the foundations on which to build the future of Christians in Iraq, as underlined by Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako in the pastoral letter -- also shared with AsiaNews - on the sixth anniversary of the election to Patriarch Chaldean, at the 2013 Rome Synod on January 31 of that year.
To confirm the role of the Chaldean community in Iraqi society, the task has been assigned to the patriarchate of "forming a committee" for interreligious dialogue including "Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis". This inter-confessional working group are called to make proposals on how to fight against radical ideology and the draft a booklet presenting all the religions in Iraq.
The former archbishop of Kirkuk succeeded Emmanuel Delly III, who had resigned due to age restrictions. Born on July 4, 1948 in Zakho, northern Iraq, he was ordained a priest on June 1, 1974. As a prelate, then a primate of the Iraqi Church, he repeatedly denounced the exodus of Christians and launched numerous appeals to the executive and local authorities.
Last May Pope Francis appointed the Chaldean primate to the rank of cardinal. Commenting on the choice of the pontiff, Cardinal Sako spoke of a gesture of "friendship and support" towards all Iraqi people.
In the message, the cardinal does not forget the many critical points, the challenges and the threats that threaten the future of the Church and of Christians in Iraq, such as: The rise of the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) that occupied Mosul and the Nineveh plain, which triggered a precipitous flight of hundreds of thousands of people. For three and a half years the Chaldean patriarchate took care of their needs, also ensuring the right to study (in Erbil and Kirkuk) for their children.
Card Sako still remembers the exodus of Christians, with the flight of almost a million faithful, and the ongoing battle against those who foment hatred and divisions. Other priorities include the defense of Christian property in Baghdad and across the country, expropriated by force or deception. Finally, the clear opposition to Christian politicians who took advantage of the office "for personal ends".
In the message the Chaldean primate not only remembers the problems and difficulties, but underlines at the same time the strengths on which to base the reconstruction: the establishment of the Chaldean Association; the organizations that refer to the patriarchate, including the pastoral council; the commitment of priests to displaced persons; the recognition of the Chaldean martyrs; the meeting in Baghdad - the first for Iraq - of the Catholic patriarchs of the East; the visit on the occasion of the Christmas of the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
"I love Iraq" concludes the cardinal, it is part of "my identity", "I love the Chaldean Church" that "has been entrusted to me" and "I am at the service of all Christian communities".