ASIA/IRAQ - Chaldean Patriarch Sako: "The road to church unity is not easy"

Thursday, 10 June 2021 middle east   oriental churches   ecumenicalism   theology   unity   sacraments

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - The path to restore full unity between Churches and ecclesial communities "is not as easy as some imagine", said Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon. In a statement published by the official channels of the Patriarchate, the Iraqi Cardinal admits that the question of restoring full sacramental unity among the baptized is a "complex question". The Churches and ecclesial communities according to the Patriarch, could not be united by force and also not stripped of their individual identity "by decree", because "the Church is not a mere administrative entity", but a reality with its own, unmistakable spiritual nature. At the present moment there are sociological and cultural aspects that complicate the situation, since in our world today pluralism is recognized and affirmed as a positive value, while homologation processes are denounced. The historical model to be considered, the Patriarch continued, remains that of the early Church, of which the Acts of the Apostles tells: In the beginning - the Iraqi Cardinal points out - the unity of the baptized was not an objective ideal to be reached through human efforts and stratagems, but it was developed through faith and love which animated hearts through the grace of Christ. Only the unity lived in faith and love can emerge effortlessly and so that the legitimate pluralism of the different theological approaches, the diverse rites and the different historical paths of the ecclesial communities that thrive in different civilizations, cultures and countries coexist. But Patriarch Sako does not stop at general considerations about the difficulties of ecumenism, but also wants to draw attention to a certain immobility that, in the opinion of the Iraqi cardinal, characterizes ecumenical bodies and inter-ecclesial contacts in his country. In Iraq, according to the Patriarch, there are officially 14 communities and ecclesiastical denominations of different composition. According to the Patriarch, the Council of Heads of Churches and Christian Communities in Iraq, which was founded in 2006, has repeatedly satisfied "the need to standardize positions and official discourses" between the various church components. At the same time, the organism has shown its weaknesses in recent years, while similar organisms in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are more able to react to the urgencies and crises of the present historical moment. The patriarch recalls, among other things, the failed attempt to find a common date for the liturgical feasts, which are celebrated by different ecclesiastical communities on different days. In September 2013, a few months after his election as head of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Sako sent a letter of congratulations to the then Assyrian Patraiarch Mar Dinkha IV on his 78th birthday (see Fides, 16/9/2013). In that message of good wishes, Patriarch Sako also addressed an eloquent official invitation to the Head of the Assyrian Church to begin together a journey of dialogue to restore full ecclesial communion between the Chaldean Christian community - in communion with the Bishop of Rome - and the Assyrians, who share the same liturgical, theological and spiritual heritage share. However, no concrete steps followed the proposal submitted by Patriarch Sako at the time. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 10/6/2021)

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