The West must not remain indifferent….
In an interview with Zenit, Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Iraq, made this appeal following the July 7, 2018, ecumenical encounter, in which the Pope and Christian leaders rallied together to reflect on and pray for the Middle East, in the southern Italian city of Bari, the city of St. Nicholas.
In the interview, the Cardinal discusses the impact of the encounter, why he has great hope, and what he will express to his faithful in Iraq. Moreover, he explains why he is convinced ‘there is a future for the Gospel’ in the Middle East, and why what counts more than numbers is the quality of those witnessing the Gospel in his land.
Here is Zenit’s July 7 interview with the cardinal:
ZENIT: Cardinal Sako, how would you summarize the message launched today in Bari?
Cardinal Sako: I would say first of all “unity” among the heads of the different Churches and representatives of different cultures. This unity today was a fact! When we were all together on the bus, people shouted “unity! Unity!” towards us. I felt as if I were on Peter’s boat, as if we were all together in the boat, united! This meeting was already in itself a message, to the whole world and in particular to our faithful who suffer: “We are close to you, we pray for you, we think of you, we are at your service!”
Pope Francis in his speech during the meeting insisted on our call to offer human and spiritual closeness to the people, as pastors … They were powerful moments, which profoundly moved us and left us with so much hope!
ZENIT: You have not shyed away from stating the problems of the Middle East, starting with the emigration of Christians …
Cardinal Sako: We have talked about everything, about how the Church is built up, even in the midst of the difficulties, and the sufferings of our people. A Church that prays, that is faithful, that hopes, but also a Church at the service of the people … I am so full of hope, and I return with such strength!
ZENIT: And what will you convey to your faithful in Iraq?
Cardinal Sako: I will speak of the meeting and unity among the leaders of the Church. After all, I am convinced of it, we are united in the faith. The differences are cultural, geographical, but this is normal, because the message of the Gospel is incarnated in different cultures, through inculturation. But basically we are united. Then I will say “we are all close to you, at your service until the end, even to martyrdom. Even today there are martyrs who shed blood, not just in the past … and we are ready!
ZENIT: Today do you have more faith in the future of the Church in the Middle East…
Cardinal Sako: I am convinced that there is a future for the Gospel. There are problems but the Gospel is like the salt and light which Jesus speaks about. Little things, of course, but the impact and strength do not depend on the numbers. It depends on the quality of the testimony. You imagine 120,000 people leaving their homes at night with only the clothes on their backs and leave everything, leaving the Nineveh Plain and Mosul, to escape. They are confessors of faith! And the West must not remain indifferent, even if today it is even ashamed to say that its civilization is Christian … and this is a shame for me!