Iraq-based Chaldean Catholic Church elects new Patriarch

By staff writers
February 2, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has formally welcomed the election of Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk to be the new patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

The news is a boost for the Iraq-based church, which has found itself hard pressed since the 2003 Western invasion to remove dictator Saddam Hussein.

The election process took four days of prayer and discussion involving the 15 Chaldean Catholic bishops.

Archbishop Louis Sako replaces 85-year-old Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad.

It is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome to seek official approval before an announcement is made, and this was accomplished on 1 February following the election on 31 January 2013.

In light of this, the Vatican has confirmed that Pope benedict extended "ecclesial communion" to the new Chaldean leader, formally recognizing his elevation.

The new patriarch chose "authenticity, unity, renewal" as his patriarchal motto.

He told the Vatican's Fides news agency: "We find ourselves facing so many difficulties, inside and outside the country, but with Christ's help and with the collaboration of the bishops, we will find a way to live a unity that will enable us to rebuild."

"The Chaldean church must be a sign of hope, witness and communion, despite the difficulties," he added, referring to the painful and often violent and divisive aftermath of the war ten years ago

Patriarch Sako pledged to Iraqis work with other Iraqis "to defend human dignity and peaceful coexistence based on equal rights and obligations for all citizens."

He is a known supporter of the rights of the Kurdish people, who suffered under Saddam Hussein and continue to find themselves in a highly precarious situation.

Almost two-thirds of the 500,000 remaining Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church.

The Christian population is estimated to have fallen by two-thirds since the war.

Initial comment from Ekklesia associate and regional expert Dr Harry Hagopian: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17922

[Ekk/3]

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