By Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation
At the invitation of His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, the annual Chaldean Synod was held at the Patriarchal summer headquarters, Ankawa, Erbil, Iraq, from 3 to 10 August 2019, attended by Bishops from the dioceses of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, America, Canada and Australia. After the opening ceremony, the assembled Bishops sent a letter to His Holiness Pope Francis, affirming their love, appreciation and gratitude for supporting the Chaldean Church and Iraqi people. They closed by hoping that the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq will take place in 2020.
At the end of the Synod, the participants issued the following statement:
Spiritual Retreat: Synod Fathers commenced their meetings with a Mass celebrated by Patriarch Sako, in which he addressed the importance of taking responsibility and working together as a team to serve the Church and our people in these complicated circumstances. This was followed by a spiritual retreat for two consecutive days, led by Bishop Yousif Sowaif, Archbishop of the Maronite Archdiocese in Cyprus. The focus was, the role of the bishop, in administrating the diocese, living the faith with a spirit of transparency, in addition to emphasizing bishop's quality as a father, brother, pastor and priest of the diocese.
Meeting with the Laity (Men and Women Representatives of Different Dioceses): This is the first time in the history of our Chaldean Church that the Synod Fathers invited laity for a period of two days to study the Chaldean public affairs. An extensive statement was issued as the outcome of this meeting, in which they urged the selected laity committee to follow up on implementing the recommendations listed in our website.
Administrations: As the 5th year of the legal term for the permanent Synod membership and the Secretary-General is finished, the Synod Fathers elected the following as a replacement: Archbishop Michel Kassaraji, Archbishop Mikhael Maqdassi and Archbishop Mikhael Najeeb. His Beatitude Patriarch Sako appointed Bishop Basilios Yaldo as a fourth member and Bishop Yousif Toma Mirkis was re-elected as a Secretary-General.
In regard to Babel College for Philosophy & Theology, HB Patriarch Sako appointed Bishop Yousif Toma Mirkis to be the Dean and Sr. Sanaa Yousif Hanna (Sacred Heart Order) the Vice Dean. He also appointed Sr. Caroline Saeed Jarjis (of the Sacred Heart Order) to be the Director of the Institute of Christian Education in Ankawa.
Synod Father selected new bishops for the vacant Diocese.
Liturgy: Synod Fathers reviewed the text of the Mass of the Apostles (Addai and Marie), in which Sundays and feasts mass celebration are separated from that of weekdays. They reviewed also the 2nd Mass ritual as well as a new text of the Mass composed by HB Patriarch Sako taking its' inspiration from Chaldean Spirituality and Prayers. The three texts will be sent to the Holy See for approval.
Economic Aspect: Establishing a joint fund in the Patriarchate to support the Patriarchate projects and the needy dioceses. It was recommended also to conduct an economic study to determine the conditions of contributing to this fund in addition to the activation of faithful contribution in "Zakat".
Synod Fathers recommended the following:
Calling upon their priests to accept the ecclesiastical laws, encouraging them to remain steadfast in their vocation and be honest towards their devotion in spite of the difficulties. On the other hand, they appreciated those who have worked throughout these years serving their parishes with self-denial, sacrifice, and generosity.
Urging their faithful inside and outside Iraq to unite and hold into their Chaldean identity, principles of faith, Christian ethics, and their affiliation to Church, homeland and Chaldean language, as well as dealing with their bishop as a head of the local Church.
Mentioning with compliment the return of families (displaced by ISIS) to their homes and towns in Mosul and Nineveh Plain, supporting reconstruction process and being there for them in facing various challenges. They also encouraged the rest of internally displaced Christian families, to return and avoid selling their homes and properties, since it is their historical heritage.
Expressing their full support for the Patriarchate's addresses and speeches and its' stance in defending Christians' rights; their fair representation at the government institutions; demanding a civil state based on full citizenship, equality, justice, the rule of law and institutions away from sectarian system. They strongly support the intention of the Central Iraqi Government and KRG to undertake brave reforms.
Restricting votes among the Christian component in electing their representatives away from the interventions of "big parties", especially in regard of "Christian quota" in both Parliament representation and the provincial Councils.
In conclusion, Synod Fathers renewed their pledge to work diligently to serve their Dioceses and to activate the ecumenical movement, and called upon Christian of all denominations to "be one" (John 17: 11) as Jesus wanted them, by relying on dialogue and communication. They also encourage Christians to be bridges of sincere dialogue between different groups, in order to promote coexistence and raise the voice of truth towards the developments of their countries and their citizens.