According to the Chaldean Patriarch, the Church needs to show solidarity and offer encouragement to people. Hierarchies cannot be detached from the people

According to the Chaldean Patriarch, the Church needs to show solidarity and offer encouragement to people. Hierarchies cannot be detached from the people

The Synod on the Family that is currently underway is an open debate in which everyone can speak up and freely express what they think. Last year’s Synod was a good starting point but the discussions are now moving forward; the important thing is for the Church to be close to people, giving encouragement and spreading a bit of joy. It is not all about enforcing legislative canons. “We are pastors and we are constantly in contact with people”. One of the Synod Fathers and Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon, Louis Sako shares his thoughts, describing the difficult conditions the Church faces in Iraq.

Patriarch Sako, how is the Synod going? Is there a lively discussion going on and have different positions been expressed?

“It is very important for me to mention that there is a free debate taking place, there have been no conflicts so far, so we are very free to say what we think. Above all, we need to remind ourselves that we are pastors, we are pastors, we are in contact with people, we see people, we feel their suffering. So we as pastors need to take our faith and mercy in consideration. Both things together, as Jesus does. People expect words of hope and encouragement from us. We are trying to provide a stimulus, a nudge; from then on we will see what the Pope will do.”

Since the very start of his pontificate, the Pope has been speaking about mercy as a key to interpreting the role of the Church and its relationship with a world that is undergoing a deep transformation in his view. What does this mean?

“I said we need to give people a nudge. Mercy is also about educating others, it is not an end in itself. The Church is also a mother. We churn out so much dogma, legislation takes up a lot of space in Church life. What we need today, however, is more sensitivity, more encouragement. We need to raise people’s morale, people’s spirits. Today, people need words of encouragement, a little joy, solidarity, they need to feel the Church’s presence, we must not be detached from them, like a hierarchy. We are one single family and we have been speaking as one family.”

Do you believe others in the Synod share your way of looking at things?

“Yes, yes, most us have talked about this in the language-based discussion groups and also about economic justice, legality, the exploitation of women and the poor and our mission is to defend these oppressed individuals. In the Synod, there is a very strong drive for change.”

As far as you can tell, in the Synod debate, has there been a greater focus on the problems faced by European and western families or have other aspects also emerged, problems relating to families from other parts of the world, like the Middle East…?

“We will also speak about our challenges, after all, when we speak about challenges we are talking about challenges to do with the faith, as Christians there is nothing else. We (Iraq and the Middle East, Ed.)lack stability, there is persecution and emigration which means that the family is divided. Naturally, the context in which we live is also to be taken into account. The Muslim culture looks at sexuality and the family in a different way. There is polygamy amongst other things and this is also a problem for us.”

Patriarch Sako, what is the situation in Iraq today, in this very dramatic moment?

“Iraq is home to a dynamic Church that works hard. We are the first to offer help to displaced families. We are open to dialogue too and this is much appreciated. Sadly, I believe the universal Church could have done more to help our Church, which is going through trying times, not leaving it alone.”

One last thing: what is your view on the military operations against ISIS? The Patriarchate of Moscow has referred to it as a holy war…

“It is not a holy war, that is wrong. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of those Muslims who speak about the Jihad. There is no holy war. But in my view, we have a duty to save the lives of all these innocent people, I have a right to defend myself, the State can defend me, protect me. I do not believe these bombings are achieving anything. I think what is needed is a land offensive. We need troops to get rid of ISIS, which poses a danger because they want to destroy culture, history and life. They have killed thousands of people. We have three million refugees in Iraq So the international community has a moral duty to do something concrete, to seek lasting political solutions on the ground, in order to allow people to live their lives in peace without the need to escape.”

Vatican Insider