A plenary meeting of Iraqi bishops in Baghdad on Saturday has resulted in an important joint declaration calling on all “national and international forces to unite their efforts” to liberate territories occupied by ISIS and to “exercise the necessary influence” to provide protection for Christians and other Iraqis returning to their homes, enabling them to live in security and dignity.
The meeting, called an “Extraordinary Synod” of Chaldean Bishops, was convoked by Archbishop Louis Sako, the Patriarch of Baghdad. Its aim was for the Iraqi bishops to speak in unison to the international community about the humanitarian emergencies affecting the populations of territories conquered by Islamic jihadists.
The Chaldean Catholic Church comprises Iraqi Christians who are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The bishops also called on both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government to allocate the necessary funds to support “families that ISIS has hunted, and robbed of their money and their property.”
In the course of their meetings, the Chaldean Synod also confirmed its support for the creation of a “Chaldean League,” a project proposed some time ago by Archbishop Sako. According to the bishops’ statement, the Chaldean League would have a civil profile and would advocate for “the social and cultural affairs of the Chaldeans.” Though legally autonomous, the league would act in accord with the teachings of the Catholic faith.
The Chaldean Synod also weighed in on a recent issue involving the decision of certain Chaldean priests to stay in the Chaldean Diocese of St. Peter in San Diego rather than return to Iraq. The bishops “expressed their deep regret” for the non-cooperation and lack of response from the local Bishop in this regard.
The Synod Fathers also expressed the solidarity of the Chaldean church with displaced families from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, promising to “remain firmly alongside our displaced and suffering people” and to “use all its capabilities to serve, raise morale, and spread hope in our hearts.”
Finally, the synod also addressed the commemoration of the centenary of the so-called “Assyrian Holocaust,” referring to the deportations and massacres carried out in 1915 by the Ottoman Turks on Assyrian Christians.
To mark the centenary of “the genocide of our people,” the synod stated, “we have decided to designate an annual day of celebration: it will be the first Friday after Easter we call ‘the Friday of the martyrs and confessors of the faith.’”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter: @tdwilliamsrome.