Pope Francis received in audience the bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church on February 5.
François Yakan, Patriarchal Administrator of the Chaldeans in Turkey,
spoke with I.Media about the meetings, noting how Pope Francis
reiterated his concern for Eastern Christians and the Christians of the
In fact, the meeting began late because the pope was with Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in discussions that focused on the
status of Jerusalem.
The Holy Father then received the group of bishops led by Patriarch
Louis Sako. Their talks lasted longer than expected, Bishop Yakan said.
The pontiff took the time to speak with each bishop about the situation
of his diocese.
“The pope does not forget us,” he assured. According to Bishop Yakan,
the Successor of Peter was particularly attentive to the situation of
the Chaldean diaspora, including “safeguarding its identity,” culture
“I am ready to go to Iraq,” the pope even said, adding however that
“it was not the moment.” According to Patriarch Sako,
the necessary security conditions are not met. It is the same with the
political situation, tied up in a power struggle between the Kurdish
autonomists and the central government of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.
But the outlines of this hypothetical pontifical journey seem well
defined. The Iraqi patriarch spoke of a stage in
Ur, Mesopotamia—Abraham’s hometown in the Bible—as well as Baghdad and
Erbil to visit the refugees.
There is indeed fear of the Chaldean Church slowly disappearing,
despite it being one of the first Eastern Churches, founded in Babylon
in today’s Iraq and traditionally going back to the Apostle Thomas.
This patriarchal Church is one of 11 Eastern Churches in Iraq. There
are about one million faithful worldwide, with less than half still in
Iraq, and 100,000 in Europe. The last great migration was sparked by the
arrival of Islamic State in Mosul in 2014, when many Christians fled
the Nineveh Plain and took refuge in the autonomous region of Kurdistan.