SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad is being aided by Pope Francis in his ongoing attempts to recover clerics and religious who fled Iraq in 2013 without permission.
The wayward priests and monks were given asylum by dissident bishop Sarhad Jammo at the Chaldean eparchy of St. Peter in San Diego. Jammo also allowed the disobedient clerics to exercise their sacred ministry.
Patriarch Louis Sako had issued several letters calling these men back to Iraq. In 2014 he addressed them, saying, "We have to live and die in the place where God calls us."
Sako also urged these men to give up their plush and prestigious American lifestyles. He recalled that priests and monks shouldn't desire prestige or comfortable living conditions, but rather to serve their brothers following Christ, and even agreeing to carry the cross when required by the circumstances.
To this end, the Synod of Chaldean bishops in 2013 reaffirmed that no one can leave their diocese or religious community without the formal approval of the bishop or his superior. The synod, held in Baghdad, affirmed that no priest can transfer his residence from one diocese to another without the consent of both bishops. This rule was already spelled out in canon law.
Notably absent from the 2013 synod was Bp. Jammo. Referring to him, Patriarch Sako at the time discussed this unresolved issue "with a stubborn bishop" who "boycotted the Synod and encourages emigration," as well as the disobedient transfer of rebellious priests and monks to his diocese in San Diego.
Last year, Mar Sako met with Vatican officials about resolving the problem with Jammo and the rebel clerics and religious who flocked to him.
Last Saturday, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of the recalcitrant bishop, who turned 75. In Jammo's place, the Pope has appointed Abp. Audish Shlemon Warduni, a veteran auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and close friend of Mar Sako. Warduni will act as apostolic administrator of the eparchy until the Chaldean Synod chooses a bishop to replace Jammo.
On Monday Sako issued a letter to the eparchy in San Diego informing it of the appointment. In the letter, Sako hails this moment as a "new page" in the relationship of the patriarchate and the "rebel diocese." The patriarch wants to see the disobedient monks and priests back in Iraq at the disposal of their superiors "bearing witness to Christ not only by words but by example."
Writing to the eparchy in San Diego, Patriarch Sako addressed his letter "to the priests, monks, nuns, deacons, daughters and sons of St. Peter the Apostle Chaldean Diocese" asking them to "think carefully about their responsibilities as consecrated to Christ."
Sako renewed his call for "reconciliation" and for them to "support and stand by" the brothers and sisters who live in the homeland and face a "serious threat."
His Beatitude warmly spoke "to the 'conscience' of monks and priests who disobeyed the Church and left their dioceses and monasteries." He gently urged "them to focus on what is more essential, to think carefully about their responsibilities as consecrated to Christ and overcome all the obstacles that prevent them from accomplishing their mission profoundly."