Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, has announced that he will be forced to retire from the Patriarchal See in Baghdad and will move to a monastery in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. The move is largely due to the actions of Babylon Brigades, a pro-Iranian “Christian” militia, as well as the Iraqi government’s withdrawal of its recognition of the office of the patriarch.
“It is unfortunate that we in Iraq live in the midst of a wide network of self-interest, narrow factionalism, and hypocrisy that has produced unprecedented political, national and moral chaos, which is taking root by now more and more,” Cardinal Sako wrote in a statement, provided by Asia News.
According to the report, the Iraqi government recently repealed Decree 147, which recognized the pontifical appointment of Cardinal Sako as the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Decree 147 has recognized the authority of the Chaldean patriarch since it was instilled by the previous administration of Jalal Talabani, in 2013. The decree’s repeal came after a campaign against the patriarch by the Babylon Brigades, described by the cardinal as particularly “deliberate and humiliating.”
Without the decree, the patriarchate loses important immunities reserved for religious leaders in Iraq, as well as the ability to represent the Chaldean faithful in matters of the state. Now, with the repeal of the decree, the Babylon Brigade has started an appeal to place one of their own members, Rayan Salem Doda, in the position of Custodian of the Endowments of the Church. It also gives the Babylon Brigade representation within the Iraqi Parliament.
It should be noted that while the Babylon Brigade claims to be a Christian militia, many Iraqi Christian leaders have stated that they do not represent any Christian church or denomination. The Cardinal went on to implore Iraqi Christians to maintain their faith and their national identity, “until the “storm passes with the help of God.”
“It is unfortunate that we in Iraq live in the midst of a wide network of self-interest, narrow factionalism, and hypocrisy that has produced unprecedented political, national and moral chaos, which is taking root by now more and more,” Cardinal Sako writes.
Many other associations and political parties have voiced their support for the prelate, including: the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council, the House of Mesopotamia (Bet-Nahrain) Patriotic Union, the Sons of Mesopotamia (Bnay Nahrain) Party, and the Assyrian Patriotic Party. A statement supported by these groups read:
“The entire Christian community of Iraq is threatened, and Chaldean and Syriac Assyrians have united to affirm their support for the patriarch of the Chaldean Church.”