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Chaldean Bishops Elect Kirkuk Archbishop as New Patriarch

Pope Benedict XVI meets in a private audience with His Beatitude Mar Louis Rafael I of Kirkuk, the new patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean Church on 4 February at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters) 

04 Feb 2013 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The new head of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad, told his fellow Chaldean bishops and Vatican officials, “We want to follow the example of our martyrs who gave their lives for Christ.”

The new patriarch, elected head of the Iraq-based church late on 31 January, celebrated the Qurbana — the Chaldean eucharistic liturgy — in St. Peter’s Basilica on 4 February and then made a formal profession of faith in front of St. Peter’s tomb.

Just before the liturgy, he and the 14 other Chaldean bishops met Pope Benedict XVI, who formally recognized the election of the new patriarch on 1 February.

As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, newly elected Patriarch Louis Raphael formally requested communion, or unity, with the pope. The pope extended “ecclesial communion” to him and asked Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, to co-preside in his name over the 4 February Qurbana as a public sign of their full unity.

At the liturgy, the patriarch said that despite the suffering of Chaldeans in Iraq over the past decade, “our faith encourages us to continue to hope and to love.”

In Iraq and throughout the Middle East, he said, Christians have and continue to make important contributions to the culture and development of their countries.

“Despite the wave of violence that seems to dominate the region today,” he said, Christians “want to live in their lands and in their churches in peace, freedom and dignity, working with their fellow citizens to establish peaceful coexistence and an open and pluralistic society.”

The new patriarch also publicly thanked his predecessor, 85-year-old Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, for his service and sacrifices “during a difficult and critical period” in the history of Iraq and its Christian communities.

Patriarch Louis Raphael was elected after four full days of prayer and discussion at the Passionist convent in Rome. He took Louis Raphael I as his patriarchal name.

The new patriarch chose “authenticity, unity, renewal” as his patriarchal motto and told the Vatican’s Fides news agency, “We find ourselves facing so many difficulties, inside and outside the country, but with Christ’s help and with the collaboration of the bishops, we will find a way to live a unity that will enable us to rebuild.”

As Iraq continues to struggle with the aftermath of war, “the Chaldean Church must be a sign of hope, witness and communion, despite the difficulties,” he told Fides.

Patriarch Louis Raphael said he and his fellow Iraqis must work together “to defend human dignity and peaceful coexistence based on equal rights and obligations for all citizens.”

Iraq’s Christian population, believed to number up to 1.4 million in the late 1990s, now is believed to be significantly fewer than 500,000. Almost two-thirds of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean Church.

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Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Eastern Churches Chaldean Church Patriarchs Chaldeans