Announcement of Patriarch Sako’s Resignation Causes Concern

August 05, 2022
Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako

The announced intention of the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako to present his resignation to the Pope on the day of his 75th birthday is causing a stir. The rule that bishops must resign based on age does not apply to patriarchs of the Eastern Churches.

The Iraqi cardinal announced his decision during a television interview, broadcast by Nour Sat TV. In recent weeks, the Patriarch's words have sparked controversy and divergent comments on social networks, which has led the interested party to publish a note of clarification, which has been released in recent days by the official media of the Chaldean Patriarchate.

In this note, it is specified that Patriarch Sako had already hinted in the past that he intended to resign from the patriarchal office when he reached the age of 75.

According to current canonical provisions, all Catholic bishops are required to submit their letter of resignation to the Pope when they reach the age of 75. However, this rule does not apply to the Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic churches, for whom there is no “retirement” age.

“But it is regrettable, we read in the explanatory note, that among Easterners, both in institutions and political parties and in the Churches, a real ‘retirement culture’ is absent.”

“The role of patriarch,” the note continues, “is a service role that does not depend on the individual person who holds it, however charismatic.” The statement stresses that Patriarch Sako has “responsibly and conscientiously served the Church in difficult circumstances” and “expects no thanks or praise for his service.”

This news can be interpreted in various ways, but it is, to say the least, abnormal to see those who have a father’s role in a diocese being deprived of this role at a fixed age for all, while some can still normally perform the duties of their state, even if others cannot.

As for the “retirement culture,” it sounds terribly worldly. If we can understand that, when his strength abandons him, the priest or the bishop can retire, it means, on the other hand, that they would a civil servant spirit and plan his retirement and so as to have the “culture.”

Louis Sako was born in Zakho (Iraq) on July 4, 1948. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1974. On September 27, 2003, he was elected Chaldean Archdeacon of Kirkuk. On January 31, 2013, he was elected patriarch by the Synod of the Chaldean Church meeting in Rome, and took the name of Louis Raphaël. On February 1, Pope Benedict XVI granted him the communio ecclesiastica. On June 28, 2018, he was created cardinal by Pope Francis.