Iraq: Christian Property Threatened by Presidential Decision

Source: FSSPX News

Abdul Latif Rashid, President of Iraq and Ryan al-Kaldani, the “Chaldean”

“After experiencing violence and persecution in the recent past, new clouds are gathering over the future of Christians in Iraq, and now threaten the highest Christian authority in the land, the Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako.”

The President of the Iraqi Republic recently withdrew what can be described as the “institutional recognition” of the office held by the Chaldean patriarch by repealing Decree 147, signed by his predecessor on July 10, 2013, which recognized the patriarch’s appointment as head of the Chaldean Church “in Iraq and the world” and thus, “responsible for the assets of the Church.”

A source at Asianews points out that the whole affair turns on this point: “Someone wants to take control over the assets and properties held by Christians and the Church.” President Abdul Latif Rashid has intervened in recent days with the intention of “clarifying” his decision.

His office issues a statement saying: “Withdrawing  the republican decree does not prejudice the religious or legal status of Cardinal Louis Sako, as he is appointed by the Apostolic See.” According to the Kurdish Muslim leader, “the abolition of the Presidential Decree is intended to correct the situation,” while the patriarch continues to enjoy “the respect and appreciation of the presidency of the Republic as Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world.”

“However, the president’s decision strips the Chaldean leader – the Patriarch – of the right to administer church assets, which are the target of Ryan 'the Chaldean' and his Babylonian Brigades. ‘It’s no coincidence that the president’s decision came a few days after he met with Ryan,’” a source told AsiaNews.

“For over 100 years, the patriarch, after his papal appointment, had his office recognized by decree by the king and then the president, upholding his status as head of the Church and custodian of its properties.” With the withdrawal of the decree, the primate “will likely lose control over the [Church’s] assets and properties,” the source concludes, but Cardinal Sako “is determined to fight and is already studying ways to appeal in court so that law prevails and justice is done.”

The controversy surrounding the withdrawal of the presidential decree is the latest chapter in a series of attacks that have affected the most respected figure of the Chaldean Church in Iraq, to the point that in recent weeks there has arisen a backlash among Christians in response to the “lies”: an attack against the patriarch and the leadership of the Church by the leader of the Babylonian Movement, Rayan.

This self-styled Christian leader, supported by Shiites linked to Iran, wants to create an enclave in the Nineveh plain using his power base. It includes four members of Iraq’s parliament (out of five reserved for the minority) and a government ministry. The Babylonian Brigade militia appeared during the struggle against ISIS and imposed itself economically and politically

The bishops of the North (Mosul and the Nineveh Plain) have criticized the minority quota system, fully supporting the cardinal’s battle and announcing a possible boycott of the upcoming elections by the Christians. In May, the Chaldean primate suggested that he might have to turn to international tribunals to protect the distribution of parliamentary seats.

These statements have earned the patriarch more and more acerbic and harsh attacks from people close to the Babylonian Movement, to the point of pushing hundreds of Christians to take to the streets and in solidarity with Cardinal Sako.

“In a joint statement sent to AsianNews, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council, the Betnahrain Patriotic Union, the Nahrain Sons Party, and the Assyrian Patriotic Party pledge their support for the patriarch. This closeness goes beyond respect for his religious authority and the Church, but concerns the latter’s ‘status as a religious institution that represents an important part of Iraqi society.’”

The note concludes, “As national parties, we reject this decision,” which will allow “the manipulation of Church assets by influential and corrupt parties who clearly want to seize them.”