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Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako Returns to Baghdad Upon PM Al-Sudani's Invitation
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The head of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, announced on Thursday his return to his headquarters in Baghdad upon a personal invitation from Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

The church stated in a statement, "Upon a personal invitation from the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani, His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, a companied for by Bishop Thomas Mirm, arrived (Wednesday evening) in Baghdad."

The statement added that "representatives of the Prime Minister (Hazem Wattan) welcomed his Beatitude at Baghdad International Airport at the VIP lounge, after which he headed to his headquarters at the Patriarchate in Al-Mansour, accompanied by the Chaldean Church's prayers."

In July 2023, The Iraqi president Abdul Latif Rashid issued a republican decree in which he decided to withdraw republican decree number 147 for the year 2013, which is about the accreditation of Patriarch Sako in Iraq.

Related: Feud Between Chaldean Patriarch and Iraq's President Reinforces Islamic Status of Minority Groups

Republican decree number 31 was published in Iraq's formal newspaper Al-Waqaei Al-Iraqiya, edition 4727, on 3 July; hence the decree has been officially put into practice. On 7 July, Rashid clarified that he had decided to annul special presidential decree 147 for 2013, describing it as "illegal and unconstitutional".

The Republican decree had been withdrawn from Cardinal Louis Sako in response to the request made by Rayan al-Kaldani, the leader of the Babylon faction affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The step has sparked anger among Iraqi Christians.

Rashid also said that cancelling the presidential decree does not affect the legal and religious status of Sako as he has been appointed as the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq by the Vatican pope.

The United States criticized the decision.

"I will say we are disturbed by the harassment of Cardinal Sako ... and troubled by the news that he has left Baghdad," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a press briefing.

"We look forward to his safe return. The Iraqi Christian community is a vital part of Iraq's identity and a central part of Iraq's history of diversity and tolerance," Miller said.

The Chargé d'Affairs of the Vatican Embassy in Iraq criticized the decree, citing the lack of a constitutional or legal basis for its issuance.

Following Miller's comments on the decision, the Iraqi Presidency expressed disappointment by the accusations aimed at the Iraqi Government and the Presidency and summoned the US Ambassador in Baghdad.

The Iraqi decision follows statement by Sako against Rayan al-Kaldani, leader of the Babylon Party.

Sako accused al-Kaldani of purloining properties from Christians in Baghdad, Nineveh, and the Nineveh Plain.

The clergyman said al-Kaldani "is endeavoring to co-opt Christian clergy with the aid of a woman he appointed to a ministerial post," alluding to Migration Minister Evan Faiq.

Sako questioned al-Kaldani's credentials, asserting that he is bereft of the capacity to lead the Christian community and aspires to dominate Christianity in Iraq.

The patriarch said al-Kaldani has usurped the Christian quota in the recent election, which designates five seats for minority Christians. In a trenchant critique, Sako censured the Babylon Movement and al-Kaldani for brandishing images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the cross during political gatherings.

"Parading them in the streets and politics is inappropriate, for we are not engaged in a crusade."

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