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New cardinals: Patriarch Sako (Baghdad) to SIR, “a great help for the Iraqi Church”

“A real surprise, totally unexpected. I thank Pope Francis for this. This appointment is a great help for all of the Iraqi Church, for our country, for the suffering population. I will do all that is in my power for Iraq and for Iraqis, without distinctions”. This was said to SIR by Louis-Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, as he commented, off the cuff, the news that he has been made a cardinal, as he heard from Pope Francis, after the Regina Coeli in St Peter’s Square, along with another 13 new cardinals. For the new cardinal, “with this decision Pope Francis wanted, once again, as it happened with the nuncio to Syria, card. Mario Zenari, to express his sympathy with a land stained with innocent blood, where Christians have been hit by so much violence”. “We Christians – Mar Sako added – have no swords, we only have peace, prayer, harmonious cohabitation as our weapons. Our call is to forgive seventy times seven, that is, always. We are called to be crafters of peace, builders of hope and dialogue. Our Muslim brothers like this culture of peace that we have”. The many expressions of esteem received by the new cardinal include one from the Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, who has just won the election on Saturday May 12th. “I have been called by al Sadr, who said words that moved me: ‘May the peace of the Lord be with you’. He also repeated to me that he is willing to help and join forces with Christians”, the Chaldean Patriarch revealed. “From government authorities and Muslim, Shiite and Sunni religious leaders, as well as ordinary people … everyone expressed me their joy, saying that this appointment is a great gift for our country, an infusion of hope for a better future. But it is also evidence of spiritual closeness to our faith, not only the Christian faith, as a Muslim told me”. “Last Friday – Mar Sako then recalled –, I ordained four new Chaldean priests and, as I gave them a cassock and a wooden cross, I called them to live as servants of the Gospel. The same call that I make not only to priests but also to all devotees: we don’t look for power, money, fame. We follow the Gospel, by joyfully serving the flock that Jesus entrusts us with. The cassock is an extremely meaningful evangelical symbol. It calls us to live as servants, not as leaders. Wearing the cassock also stands for the simplicity of being close to the people, being their friends, being on their side. It is in this spirit that I accept the appointment made by the Holy Father”.

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