This morning, Pope Francis received Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid in the Vatican. At the heart of the “cordial talks” were “good” bilateral relations and “themes of common interest”, starting with freedom of movement “especially in the Nineveh Plain”. For months, there has been a bitter conflict between Baghdad and Cardinal Sako, who temporarily moved the patriarchate’s seat to Erbil.
Rome (AsiaNews) – “Excellent” bilateral relations and “issues of common concern”, notably the “mission” of the Catholic Church and the future of communities, especially in the Nineveh Plain. These were the questions at the heart of this morning’s meeting between Pope Francis and Iraqi President Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid in the Vatican, where the Baghdad institution and the Chaldean Patriarch Dioceses are in a state of profound crisis among themselves.
At the heart of the dispute is the head of state’s decision to withdraw a presidential decree – approved by a court this week – which recognized his role and authority. The pope has twice rejected Rashid’s request for a meeting in the past; today’s face-to-face meeting was followed by meetings with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Vatican and International Relations Minister Paul Richard Gallagher Meeting with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
In a note issued at the end, the press office spoke of “cordial talks” in which “excellent bilateral relations” were confirmed and “issues of mutual interest were resolved.” The statement continued: “It is reiterated in particular that the Catholic Church in Iraq needs to be able to continue its admirable mission and guarantee that all Iraqi Christians become a dynamic and active part of society and the territory, especially in the Nineveh Plains”.
Furthermore, the note concluded, “We are concerned about a number of international issues, with a particular focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an urgent commitment to peace and stability.”
In mid-July, the cardinal temporarily moved the patriarchate’s seat from the capital to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to protest against the head of state’s annulment of the decree – which “only concerns the Chaldean Church, which is a fundamental issue,” explained the Patriarch – recognizing its role and authority.
It was a surprising decision: in fact, Abdul Latif Rashid overthrew the highest local Catholic authority, which was also responsible for managing the church’s assets and properties, thereby negating centuries-old Tradition.
Here’s the problem: control of properties targeted by the self-proclaimed Christian leader “Layan the Chaldean” and the pro-Iranian militias who support him (a diverse galaxy that includes Shiites, Christians, Sunnis… , posing a threat to the peace and coexistence of the country.
In response to the attack, the cardinal characterized the revocation of the decree as a “moral assassination”, handed over the patriarchal seat to Erbil as an “extreme protest” and did not rule out boycotting the next elections.
In this regard, in a recent interview with AsiaNews, Cardinal Sako once again confirmed that he intends to go all out to fight for the survival of the Christian community in Iraq. “I will return to Baghdad only if the decree is withdrawn,” the cardinal said. Our Church has made many contributions to Iraq, from papal visits to humanitarian aid for Muslims during the Islamic State period, even more than those reserved for Christians Much more. Today the institutional thanks are punishing the Patriarch and the entire community.”
As early as the end of October, the Iraqi president, who was attending the World Food Forum in Rome, had requested a meeting, but the pope refused for the second time, repeating his response to a similar request six months earlier.
The choice of the pope is clearly linked to the ongoing dispute between the head of state and the Chaldean Patriarch, even if the Holy See has never officially taken a position on the matter, not even himself. Sacco expressed doubts about Roma’s “silence”. On the other hand, he raised strong controversies and doubts about the (casual) meeting between the Chaldean Rayan and the pope at the end of Wednesday’s general audience.
Senior Vatican sources interviewed by AsiaNews in recent weeks explained that diplomacy is “at work” to find a “solution” to the dispute between the Chaldean Patriarch and the president through dialogue and reconciliation for the benefit of the Christian community “Benefits” to the Iraqis.