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WASHINGTON—A delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) led by Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace, visited Iraq on March 4 – 6.
Bishop Pates was joined by Bishop Yousif Habash, of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance Syria Catholic Diocese in the United States and Canada, and represented the U.S. bishops at the installation of Louis Raphael I Sako, the new patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
"With the Chaldean Church struggling to retain members in Iraq, Patriarch Sako's leadership is providential," Bishop Pates said. "He is a man of dialogue and friendship and will work diligently to establish beneficial relationships with those of the Muslim tradition and other religions, as well as governmental and civic communities in Iraq. It was a genuine honor to represent the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Patriarch's installation."
Louis Raphael I Sako succeeds Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch emeritus of Babylon for the Chaldeans. Bishop Pates noted their great work and faithful service particularly during this difficult time for the Church in Iraq.
"It is estimated that nearly one-half or 350,000 individuals from the Chaldean Church have emigrated from Iraq since the invasion and occupation of the country by American military forces beginning in 2003. It is surely incumbent upon us as Americans to assist the Chaldean Church in reversing this trend. Especially is this so because this is a land that was the beneficiary of apostolic evangelization attributed to St. Thomas the Apostle," Bishop Pates said.
The Chaldean Church is an Oriental Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, and has about 700,000 members. Chaldeans comprise about two-thirds of Iraqi Christians; many have fled to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to escape violence. Others have settled in Iran, other Middle Eastern countries, Australia and the United States. The Rite has two eparchs or dioceses in San Diego and Detroit.
"I was very cordially received by the Patriarch and the members of the Chaldean Church," Bishop Pates said. "The Iraqi government provided tight security for me and Bishop Habash, and demonstrated commitment to protect minority religions and their practice of worship as evident by the presence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi, at the installation ceremony of the new Patriarch."
The USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace has repeatedly urged the U.S. government to provide adequate humanitarian and development assistance to Iraq, insuring that aid reaches all Iraqi citizens in need, especially Christians and vulnerable minorities.
More information on the Committee on International Justice and Peace can be found online: www.usccb.org/about/international-justice-and-peace/
Keywords: U.S. bishops, USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Richard E. Pates, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Chaldean Church, Louis Raphael I Sako, Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch Emeritus of Babylon for the Chaldeans, Baghdad, Iraq, peace, Middle East
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