Overseas bishops too join their confreres as fighting continues.
Ankawa (Agenzia Fides) – The annual Synod of the Chaldean Church in Iraq began Tuesday with a Mass for peace.
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako celebrated the Mass. In attendance was the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua.
Meeting in the town of Ankawa, a few miles from Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the synod is to wrap up on Saturday with the publication of a final declaration.
Besides the Chaldean Bishops from Iraq, even Bishops from Lebanon and Syria, also from Iran, Canada, the U.S. and Australia are taking part in the meeting.
In the initial plans, the Synod of the Chaldean Church was to take place in Baghdad, and should have dealt with issues largely related to the internal life of the Church, such as the choice of new bishops for vacant sees and the beatification of 20th century martyrs.
But the dramatic developments in Iraq have led to shift the venue of the meeting to Iraqi Kurdistan, a region not involved in the conflict. "The bishops will evaluate new emergencies that mark the condition of the Christian community and across the country," said Father Albert Hisham, a spokesman for the Patriarchate.
The meeting comes after the military success of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) prompted yet another wave of displacement within a country which has already seen a dramatic decline in the Christian population over the past decade. Speaking with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on Monday, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad said that up to 75 percent of Christians had left the capital over the past few years.
Meanwhile, nearly half of the roughly 300 U.S. military advisers and special operations forces expected to go to Iraq are now in Baghdad and have begun to assess Iraqi forces in the fight against Sunni militants, the Defense Department said Tuesday as the U.S. ramped up aid to the besieged country.