On the second day of the Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, November 27, Cardinal Sako addressed the conferees saying,” The convening of the 26th meeting of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs for the first time in Iraq has a profound significance on our Christian presence during these difficult circumstances and under such unprecedented challenges. Your presence with us as heads and parish priests of ancient Churches is truly a strong expression of your solidarity with us in the wake of the suffering we have gone through in the form of oppression, killing, forcible displacement, and immigration. Your presence with us encourages the forcibly displaced people to return home and props us up at these times of crisis with the hope to maintain our identity, tradition and language.”
Hoping that the conference would serve as a turning point of blessings for Christians and the citizens in this troubled East, as well as a hope for a better future for peace, stability and a more prosperous society, Cardinal Sako said, “It is an exigency to form a unified Christian vision that hammers out a strategy to preserve our existence and our role. We must be stronger than division; we must transcend the psychological and historical barriers, as well as respect the differences in views and ideas, which is a natural issue, so that we can achieve the fateful and crucial unity of our Churches. As this goes in line with the wish of Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:27), it also helps us maintain a more influential presence in the future especially in these circumstances, when we are facing pressing challenges, including the issue of immigration, while the most serious of these challenges is religious extremism.
Stressing that the conference is an invitation to all the Churches in the region to cooperate in crystallizing the ”theology for the displaced and the immigrants”, he said: “This conference also serves as a message to the Iraqis and the peoples of the Arab region to reject intolerance and bigotry, to promote dialogue, to spread the values of peace and citizenship, as well as to consolidate the principles of common living through recognition, acceptance and respecting the privacy of others. Our societies in this region are almost bereft of this culture.”
He also urged the new Iraqi government to give priority to the attainment of social reconciliation and embark on a strategy to build a state based on citizenship, rule of law, equality as well providing services where the Iraqis can live with freedom, dignity and social justice
Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martín conveyed the blessings of His Holiness pope Francis to the conferees.
The patriarchs participating in the conference had earlier started their day with prayers as His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako celebrating Mass which was attended by patriarchs as well as a number of priests and nuns. Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai reflected on Lord Jesus Christ’s rebuking the winds and waves, “He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:26).
Later, the sessions of the conference in its second day resumed under the title, “The Youth are a Sign of Hope in our Middle East Countries.” Among those participating in the conference are Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Melkite Patriarch Youssef Absi, Armenian Catholic Patriarch Krikor Bedros XX Ghabroyan, Bishop William Shomali (representing the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) and Professor Souraya Bechealany, Secretary General of the Council of the Churches of the Middle East.
By: Munir Bayouk