News from Fellowship and Aid to Christians of the East (FACE)

The head of the Chaldean Church and Patriarch of Babylon, His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, will make his first-ever pastoral visit to the United Kingdom this month (June), to meet church and community leaders, members of his own church, Government ministers, parliamentarians, and academics.

It is an official visit, at the invitation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and coordinated by the British charity, Fellowship and Aid to the Christians of the East (FACE), with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq.

His Beatitude will be visiting the Archdiocese of Birmingham to make a private pilgrimage to the Shrine of St John Henry Newman and to attend Mass at Birmingham Oratory.

The Patriarch will also visit St Mary’s College, Oscott to meet Archbishop Bernard Longley and the seminarians.

The visit will offer His Beatitude an opportunity not only to make a pastoral visit to the Chaldean Mission in the UK and the Iraqi diaspora, but also to express his concerns for the future of Christianity in Iraq and the wider region.

Insecurity, political instability, intercommunal conflict, but also corruption and economic crisis, continue to discourage Christians from returning to, or staying in, Iraq. Currently the official State religion and primary source of legislation in that country is Islam. To ensure the future of the Christian minority in a united and free Iraq, the Chaldean Church would like a secular Constitution where Christians enjoy the rights of full citizenship and play a more active role in Iraqi political and social life.

The Patriarch has always insisted on the importance of open dialogue between all parties to build a strong and pluralist State which respects all citizens, regardless of religion and ethnicity, and offers them full citizenship and security; and the Synod of the Chaldean Church calls for a State based on equality, justice and law, which offers fair representation to Christians in government institutions.

The survival of Christianity in Iraq, together with the Patriarch’s concerns for the future of the Chaldean Church in the diaspora, will be among the topics the Patriarch will address during his talks with Church leaders in the UK, the Chaldeanparishes in England, British Government ministers, British parliamentarians, and representatives of the British and foreign diplomatic corps.

The Chaldean Church descends from one of the world’s most ancient Christian traditions and is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome as a sui iuris church. Over the past three decades it has seen its numbers in Iraq plummet from 1.5 million to about 200,000, less than 1% of the country's population. Many have fled abroad to escape the violence that has plagued the country in recent decades. Today Chaldeans number less than a million in the world. While they are a diminishing number in their homeland of Iraq, they are still to be found scattered across Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, as well as in the diaspora of Europe, North America and Australia.

The Christian presence in Iraq is a powerful force for good which promotes a culture of plurality and mitigates against the negative forces of intercommunal and religious conflict, enabling that society to facilitate reconciliation, peaceful co-existence, mutual respect, and cultural and religious exchange. The Patriarch believes that the future of the Christian presence in Iraq is vital to peace and stability in his country, and that, only through the shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of that society will Iraq emerge as a land of liberty, equality and justice.

Biography of Patriarch Sako