Iraqi Cardinal Urges Global Unity in Walsingham Visit
His Beatitude, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, recently undertook a significant visit to Walsingham. He was accompanied by Bishop Peter Collins, the Bishop of East Anglia, and several other Iraqi clergy, underscoring the pressing need for Christian unity and solidarity in these challenging times.
Their visit to Walsingham began with a stop at the Orthodox chapel, St Seraphim’s in Walsingham. They then visited the Abbey grounds, which is the site of the original Holy House. They were given a tour of the site, accompanied by a comprehensive talk on the history of Walsingham by Fr Michael Rear.
After their tour, the group shared a meal, followed by a visit to the Slipper Chapel at the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady.
A notable moment during the visit was Cardinal Sako’s in-depth interview with EWTN GB, where he addressed the challenges faced by Christians in Iraq and called for support from Western Christian communities.
The Cardinal began by expressing the hopes and aspirations of his clergy for the future, saying: “All the Iraqi bishops are with me, trying to keep our people busy, and also hoping for a better future, and I am sure the future will be different from this situation and the future will be much better than now. What we need is […] the proximity of our sisters and brothers, Christians in the West, and also this solidarity to support Christians there, and to support them morally, humanly, and spiritually, especially because in Iraq and other oriental countries the system is tribal, but Christians […] only have the Church, so their force is the Church.”
He went on to stress the significance of the Church to the Christians in the East: “The real shelter for them is the Church. What we need is this proximity, closeness, but also support. I mean, by visiting them and staying with them for a while to see their situation, to give them more hope, to raise their spirit. That is what we need.”
Turning to the role of Britain in Iraq, he said: “First of all, the British have a responsibility towards Iraq, because we were a British colony for years, and also the British were a part of the coalition to change the old regime […] I think the duty of Britain and other Western states is to establish one standard of human rights, not a double standard. We have rights, all Iraqis, Muslims and Christians to live in freedom and dignity. This kind of conviviality cannot be done without a state of citizenship and a state of equality and justice.”
He then suggested the idea of partnerships and dialogue: “Maybe there are two ways to influence political leaders, but also Church leaders. Maybe at the beginning you can invite deputies or prime ministers, or the speaker of the Parliament, to speak to them directly here in Britain, a kind of symposium or a conference on how to develop Iraq, how to help Iraq to be a real state with its own sovereignty.”
Reflecting on the contribution of Eastern churches and the need for peace, he said: “We can give a lot to the Church because our spirituality, our liturgies, our theology – it is a richness for the whole Church… We have many goods to give to the West, oil and other products. So that should be really in a civilized way and not always tensions and conflicts and dead people – that is a pity.”
Regarding the future of his Church and Iraq, Cardinal Sako remained optimistic: “I am hopeful not only for the Church, but also for the Iraqi people. Overcoming the evil doesn’t remain impossible. The good is a little bit slow, but it remains. And this kind of situation cannot continue […] There will be a change, a positive change […]”
This visit marked a significant moment for the whole Christian community. It brings to the fore the pressing need for unity and support, echoing Cardinal Sako’s call for solidarity among Christians globally, irrespective of geographical boundaries.
Friday, June 30th, 2023 @ 1:29 pm