With this week’s edition of Vatican Connections we’re already looking ahead to Easter and Holy week. The Vatican announced who will write the meditations for the Via Crucis that will take place at Rome’s coliseum, and released the pope’s liturgical itinerary for the next two months. As well, six men who were made Cardinals recently have received new jobs within the Curia. They found out which Pontifical Councils and Congregations they will serve.
One story that didn’t make it in time for this broadcast was a much anticipated appointment: the new Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk was elected as the Patriarch of Babylon late January 31 by his fellow bishops.
The previous Patriarch, Cardinal Emanuel Delly III, retired last year at the age of 85. Pope Benedict XVI called for a Synod of Chaldean Bishops to begin January 23 this year to elect a successor.
Speaking to Vatican Radio after his election, Patriarch Sako said “I hesitated and was afraid because the future is not clear.” He explained there is no stability in Iraq and security is getting worse, causing Iraqis to leave the country. One of the challenges for the Chaldean church is unity among it’s bishops and making the liturgy relevant and understandable to young people.
Although Patriarch Sako may have initially had apprehensions about his new role, many consider him to be well equipped to deal with leading the Iraqi based church. As Archbishop he repeatedly pleaded to the government to work to re-establish peace in the nation. He has also been a promoter of interreligious dialogue.
He told Vatican Radio he believes inter-religious dialogue is the only way to move forward. According to estimates by the U.S. State Department, 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslim. In 2010 he released a letter at the beginning of the Muslim Ramadan fast saying Ramadan could be a time to work towards finding healing and peace. In that same message he asked Christians “to respect the feelings of their Muslim brothers and sisters, to not eat in public and to wear modest clothing, joining them in their prayers for peace and stability." During the US-led invasion of Iraq, he opened a medical dispensary with the help of several doctors and physicians.
Patriarch Sako chose “authenticity, unity, renewal” as his patriarchal motto. In keeping with tradition, he has already written to Pope Benedict to formally request union with Rome. The Vatican announced February 1 that Pope Benedict had granted “ecclesial communion” to the new patriarch.
The new patriarch was born in Zakho, Iraq in 1948 and later studied a the Dominican-run St. John Seminary in Mosul. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1974 and served at the Cathedral of Mosul until 1979. Patriarch Sako has studied in Rome, at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He returned to Iraq in 1986 and since then has served as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish and rector of the Patriarchate’s seminary. He was appointed bishop of Kirkuk in 2003.
We'll have reaction to his election on next week's edition of Vatican Connections and an interview with Archbishop Rino Fisichella at the Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelization, to get his reaction to the pope's Motu Proprio that gave his department some new duties.