Patriarch Sako: Pope Francis is Ready to Go to Iraq

Report from the international Catholic news network Aleteia

At the consistory that Pope Francis wished to dedicate to the tragic situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, Aleteia had the opportunity to interview the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael I Sako. His Beatitude took part in the meeting together with 86 other representatives from the Eastern Catholic Churches.

During the Consistory, what requests did you make for support for your community?

First I addressed Pope Francis: he is the father of all Christians. The ones who need him most are the “little flock” in Iraq and Syria. Our people need his word and consolation and encouragement. I asked him to write a personal message, a brief pastoral letter, as Paul had done for the first Christian communities, exhorting the Christians to persevere.

And you didn’t ask him to come in person?

Of course. Even for a day, for a brief visit. His presence will support us in facing the government, in facing the Muslim authorities. The people will also say: “Voilà, the Christians are not forgotten or isolated.”

How did the Pope respond?

He said: “I’m ready.” In any case, he will write a letter in the coming days.

Severe weather and heavy rains bring further suffering to displaced Iraqis who found refuge in the province of Dohuk, Iraq.
Severe weather and heavy rains bring further suffering to displaced Iraqis who found refuge in the province of Dohuk, Iraq.

At the Consistory, how did you describe the situation of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East?

The Christian presence is under threat: we are in danger of disappearing. We are being oppressed and forced into exodus. This form of ISIS terrorism eliminates everyone, especially Christians. It is a closed ideology that expresses itself through violence. The people live in panic. Therefore the Church, but also the international community—I asked the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world to intervene with their own governments in this regard—must protect minorities and a historical Christian presence which plays a role in dialogue and mediation between the various communities.

In today’s meeting, there was talk about the difficulty bishops are having in such a difficult and even life-threatening situation, in advising Christians to emigrate or to stay: What do you say?

We have been there for two thousand years. We have a mission and a role, and if a future exists for the Chaldean Church it is not in the diaspora but in Iraq. If all the families leave, and even the priests, the entire history and Chaldean Christian patrimony will vanish. There will be a break with two thousand years of history. There is a future; there is a future for Christians if they remain united. They must have the courage to say things clearly and to reclaim their rights. Not all Muslims are ISIS! I continually meet religious leaders and civilians and they want to help us. It’s a very bad situation, but it will not last. You have to have patience and persevere. What does Christian hope mean concretely if we do not see it? We must help Christians to remain. This “Passion” will pass.


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H.E. The Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun - I am the Mufti of all Syrians – Sunni Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze – of all the diversity of sects we had before the war. There is no choice other than reconciliation."

H.B. John X Yazigi, Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch -

The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch in Syria, John Yazigi, says Syrian Christians "will not submit and yield" to foreign-backed extremist militants who attack "our people and holy places."

H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, Sunni Grand Mufti of Lebanon - “Christians’ fears nowadays over their presence and their dignity in the Middle East are right and justified”

H.B Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - The West and other countries are helping to foment conflict in the Middle East "there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests"

H.E Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, Deputy President of the Higher Shiite Council Lebanon - Called on the U.S to “work on giving people their freedom in Syria by refraining from supporting radical Islamists and criminals who are killing innocent people and violating their freedoms.

 H.B. Gregorios III Laham, Melkite greek-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - "Every day Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them."

H.H. Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (R.I.P.) - "Syrians are the only ones who will decide their destiny, and that decision will be taken in Damascus, not in a European country."

H.H. Mor Ignatius Ephrem II Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch -  “Christians and Muslims alike are exposed to a terrorist war in the region”.... the Patriarch denounced the silence of the world regarding crimes committed by armed terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

H.B. Youssef III Younan,  Syriac Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch - "We Syrian Christians, sold by the West for oil” - "Christians in the Middle East have not only been abandoned, but we have been lied to and betrayed by Western nations, like the United States and the European Union."

H.B. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, “Who appointed them [United States] as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East? ”

H.E. Maroun Laham, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan  - “This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defence of the weak, no one believes. No one believes it!,”

H.E. Jacques Behnan Hindo,  Syriac Catholic Archbishop ofHassaké-Nisibi (northeastern Syria) - Regarding the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabuis “Please excuse my expression. They are screwing all Syrians

H.E. Theodosius Hanna, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia (Nablus, Palestine) - "Will the displacement of Christians from Syria, their killing and slaughter and the destruction of their churches lead to an alleged democracy?"

Rev. Georges Massouh Antiochian Orthodox priest and director of the Christian Muslim Studies Center at Balamand University, Lebanon. "It goes without saying that Christians in Syria do not consider themselves greater or more important that their Muslim partners in the one nation. They find themselves in solidarity with all the people of Syria, in the calamities that they share and the strikes that fall upon all their heads."