Bishops of the Chaldean Church have agreed to unite and face the rising threat of persecution of Middle East Christians, vowing that the church hierarchy will continue to care for families tormented by violent extremists.
At the conclusion of the Special Synod of the Chaldean Church, Baghdad Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako expressed confidence that the church would be able to weather the challenges it is currently facing.
In an interview with Asianews.it, the patriarch described the meeting well with prelates having "perfect harmony" with each other as they arrived at the common goal of "continuing to help refugee families."
"The government has promised a lot but done very little," he lamented. "Only the Church has really helped."
The synod, which wrapped up over the weekend, also sought the creation of a "Chaldean League" of churches in communion with the Chaldean Church, and the establishment of a "patriarchal appeals court" to deal with erring prelates and clergy.
The need for such a tribunal became more apparent in the past months after prelates, clergymen and monks fled Iraq without permission from their superiors as the Islamic State rose to power.
The patriarch, together with other church officials, had issued an appeal last year for priests and monks to return to Iraq and be with their parishioners. Officials warned about the repercussions of members of the clergy abandoning their flock at a critical time when Christian persecution in Iraq began to rise.
Despite the appeal, some priests, and even one bishop, ignored the call made by Sako, who reminded the clergy about their duty of obedience to the church hierarchy.
"We want to stay here in Iraq, in our land because we want to continue to be a sign of hope," he explained.
In October, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch barred at least 12 clerics living in the United States, Sweden, Australia and Canada from carrying out their ministry, for failing to seek permission to flee Iraq.
Headquartered in Baghdad, the Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See in Rome.
It has eparchies (dioceses) in nine nations, including the United States, and has an estimated 419,000 members.
Sako also said the synod sought to launch the "International Chaldean League" in order to "defend and help displaced Chaldeans, promote the protection of the Chaldean heritage, and defend persecuted Christians."
Synod participants are also hoping for progress in the promises made by the Iraq's central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to the church, according to patriarch.
The parties pledged "to allocate funds to help families forced out and despoiled by the Islamic State group," the patriarch said, but he noted that such promises have yet to be fulfilled.