Pope Francis meets representatives of Churches in Iraq

1 Mar 2022

On 28 February 2022, the first anniversary of his apostolic journey to Iraq, the Holy Father received in a private audience the representatives of different Christian Churches in Iraq.

Presenting the delegation, Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, affirmed in his introductory address [IT] that the members of the delegation had travelled to Rome not only to express their gratitude on the occasion of the first anniversary of the visit, but also to “witness to the aspiration to continue to walk together as Christians in Iraq”.

There followed the addresses of some members of the delegation, namely Cardinal Louis‒Raphaël Sako, Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans; Patriarch Ignace Youssef III Younan of Antioch of the Syrians; Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud of Mosul; Greek‒Orthodox Metropolitan Ghattas Hazim of Baghdad; Most Reverend Jean Sleiman, Latin Archbishop of Baghdad; and Assyrian Bishop of Kirkuk Mar Abris.

In his address, Pope Francis highlighted that “today there is a deep-rooted communion among the country’s Christians” and encouraged the members of the delegation “to continue along this path, so that, through concrete initiatives, constant dialogue and, what is most important, fraternal love, progress may be made towards full unity”, sustaining that “in the midst of a people which has suffered so much division and discord, Christians will shine as a prophetic sign of unity in diversity”. The Holy Father also affirmed that “it is not possible to imagine Iraq without Christians” and that “Iraq without Christians would no longer be Iraq”.

After the audience, the members of the delegation were received at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Cardinal Kurt Koch and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, for an exchange on the fruits of the Holy Father’s visit and on the ecumenical situation in Iraq. In the evening the delegation was received by the Community of Sant’Egidio for a prayer for Iraq in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

As well as the members already mentioned, the delegation also comprised Archbishop Siri Yousif Abba of Baghdad of the Syrians, Auxiliary Bishop Basel Yaldo of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Monsignor Nerses Zabbara, Apostolic Administrator of the Armenian Catholic Church, Archimandrite Mina Orshalimi of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Reverend Father Manhel Saloom of the Melkite Church.

Many members of the delegation belong to the Council of Christian Church Leaders of Iraq, which Cardinal Koch had visited in Baghdad in September 2021.