Iraqi PM welcomes Patriarch Sako in Baghdad, affirms Christians' historical role

Iraqi PM welcomes Patriarch Sako in Baghdad, affirms Christians' historical role

Shafaq News / Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani emphasized the historical significance of the Christian component in the construction and fortification of the Iraqi state.

According to the PM’s media office, “On Thursday morning, PM Al-Sudani welcomed His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, the Patriarch of the Chaldeans in Iraq and the world, along with his delegation.”

“The meeting focused on the general conditions in Iraq and the prevailing stability throughout the country, which has facilitated the government's progress in implementing its program priorities and applying its future vision for a strong and prosperous Iraq.”

as per the statement, “Al-Sudani expressed his pleasure at the Patriarch's return to Baghdad and emphasized the importance of his presence and role, affirming the government's commitment to fostering coexistence among all segments of Iraqi society. This commitment to the principles of citizenship, which is key to progress, prosperity, and improving the social reality for all Iraqis, has been affirmed in the government's program.”

“The Prime Minister also highlighted the historic role of the Iraqi Christian component and its contribution to the building of the state and strengthening its foundations, asserting that the country's strength and distinction come from its diverse components living under the grand tent of Iraq. He assured his support to issues concerning the Christian component and all other national components.”

For his part, his Beatitude the Patriarch expressed his “best wishes to the Prime Minister on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr and stressed the importance of exerting further efforts to enable the government to fulfill its duties towards the Iraqi people, improving their living conditions, meeting their full needs and requirements, as well as addressing the issues of minorities and securing their rights.”

Earlier today, Patriarch Louis Sako announced his return to his headquarters in Baghdad upon a personal invitation from Prime Minister Al-Sudani.

The church stated, "Upon a personal invitation from the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, accompanied by Bishop Thomas Mirm, arrived (Wednesday evening) in Baghdad."

The statement added that "representatives of the Prime Minister (Hazem Wattan) welcomed his Beatitude at Baghdad International Airport at the VIP lounge, after which he headed to his headquarters at the Patriarchate in Al-Mansour, accompanied by the Chaldean Church's prayers."

In July 2023, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid issued a republican decree in which he decided to withdraw republican decree number 147 for the year 2013, which is about the accreditation of Patriarch Sako in Iraq.

Republican decree number 31 was published in Iraq's formal newspaper Al-Waqaei Al-Iraqiya, edition 4727, on 3 July; hence the decree has been officially put into practice. On 7 July, Rashid clarified that he had decided to annul special presidential decree 147 for 2013, describing it as "illegal and unconstitutional".

The Republican decree had been withdrawn from Cardinal Louis Sako in response to the request made by Rayan al-Kaldani, the leader of the Babylon faction affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The step has sparked anger among Iraqi Christians.

Rashid also said that canceling the presidential decree does not affect the legal and religious status of Sako as he has been appointed as the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq by the Vatican Pope.

The United States criticized the decision.

"I will say we are disturbed by the harassment of Cardinal Sako ... and troubled by the news that he has left Baghdad," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a press briefing.

"We look forward to his safe return. The Iraqi Christian community is a vital part of Iraq's identity and a central part of Iraq's history of diversity and tolerance," Miller said.

The Chargé d'Affairs of the Vatican Embassy in Iraq criticized the decree, citing the lack of a constitutional or legal basis for its issuance.

Following Miller's comments on the decision, the Iraqi Presidency expressed disappointment by the accusations aimed at the Iraqi Government and the Presidency and summoned the US Ambassador in Baghdad.

The Iraqi decision follows a statement by Sako against Rayan al-Kaldani, leader of the Babylon Party.

Sako accused al-Kaldani of purloining properties from Christians in Baghdad, Nineveh, and the Nineveh Plain.

The clergyman said al-Kaldani "is endeavoring to co-opt Christian clergy with the aid of a woman he appointed to a ministerial post," alluding to Migration Minister Evan Faiq.

Sako questioned al-Kaldani's credentials, asserting that he is bereft of the capacity to lead the Christian community and aspires to dominate Christianity in Iraq.

The patriarch said al-Kaldani has usurped the Christian quota in the recent election, which designates five seats for minority Christians. In a trenchant critique, Sako censured the Babylon Movement and al-Kaldani for brandishing images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the cross during political gatherings.

"Parading them in the streets and politics is inappropriate, for we are not engaged in a crusade."

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