Chaldean Patriarch introduces sanctions for “errant clerics”


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The Chaldean clergy in Baghdad


(©Lapresse) The Chaldean clergy in Baghdad

The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I is taking measures against priests and monks who have snuck into Western countries without the consent of their superiors. Some claim they are asylum seekers seeking refuge from the jihadists. But as a result, the Christian community in the Middle East risks becoming extinct

Gianni Valente Taken from Vatican Insider
romeThe “ultimatum” has set the deadline for next Wednesday 22 October. By then, all Chaldean priests and monks who recently left their dioceses and monasteries and snuck off to some Western country or another without their superior’s consent, will have to speak to their bishops and heads of their communities about when and how they will return to base or about their potential transferal to other dioceses and communities. Failure to do so will result in their suspension from the priesthood and they will no longer be remunerated. The canonical measures announced last month by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael I Sako will be made official in an ad hoc decree approved by the permanent Synod of the Chaldean Church.


The whole affair brings to light one of the most determining but less well known factors that is contributing to the extinction of thousand-year-old communities with age-old traditions in the Middle East. The apparent withering away of Christianity in ancient Mesopotamia is not only down to the Islamic State’s cut-throat jihadists, but also to priests and monks. They are the first to flee their birthplaces to “seek shelter” in the West and comfortably settle down as members of the flourishing diaspora communities. Patriarch Louis Raphael I is convinced about this. He has sent out numerous messages denouncing priests and monks who left their dioceses in the Middle East without permission. He branded these escapes as outright clerical desertion and even went as far as to publish a list of example “cases” on the Patriarchate’s website, revealing the names and surnames of the errant clerics in question. Dozens of priests and monks who were named and shamed by the Patriarch seized training sessions and trips abroad as an opportunity to request asylum in the US, Canada, Switzerland and Australia, never to return. Some of them even lied, presenting themselves as victims of Islamist threats. Now, some of them are busy arranging the escapes of their respective clans from Iraq caught in the midst of the jihadist offensive and newly-exploded sectarianism.


The Primate of the Chaldean Church - Chaldeans being the most numerous of Iraq’s Christians –  recalled that monks and priests have chosen to serve God and their brothers with their own lives. For this reason, they have “no justification for using the difficulties and uncertainties” of the situation in Iraq as an excuse to shirk their pastoral responsibilities and commitments linked to their vocation, when so many of their confreres “stay put in Iraq, consoling and supporting faithful” during this terrible time.


The stories of these Chaldean priests and monks who take advantage of their positions to emigrate to wealthier and more comfortable ecclesial and worldly contexts show that pope Francis’ constant appeals to priests not to turn into holy officials or into “state clerics” extend outside the diocese of Rome too. But these cases also reveal the tensions and problems that exist in the relationship between the Eastern Churches and their respective diaspora communities which are often influential and have more resources, including financial. Bishops who head dioceses overseas welcome priests who leave for the West with open arms. In the warming messages he issued, the Patriarch names and shames members of the Episcopate who have taken in “errant clerics”, opening up golden career opportunities for them, thus violating the canonical laws in force and disrespecting the spirit of fair play toward their colleagues.


For the past twenty years at least, the diaspora communities have become breeding grounds for a “nationalist” and identitarian turning point (as was the case with the Assyrian Church, the Syriac Churches and the Coptic Church). The numerous “Chaldean” circles, movements and political groups that have sprouted up as part of  the Iraqi diaspora in the US have always condemned the “arabization”  of Chaldean communities in Iraq in the days of the Baathist regime. This “mimetic” choice guaranteed many Iraqi Christians a slightly greater, though still limited, freedom of action and margins for survival. Chaldean identitarian groups operating mostly in the US, have always taken a lobby-like approach to the way they manage their relations and connections with US political circles in manner and successfully so. After the fall of Saddam,  they attempted to obtain guarantees for Christians when Britain and the US were overseeing the country’s restructuring. Now, in light of the sectarian conflict that has been shaking the Middle East and with the various ethnic and religious cleansing operations which Islamic State jihadists have set in motion, the diaspora communities are gathering together what remains of Iraq’s Chaldean communities, offering logistical support amongst other things, to those who want to leave their birthplaces and join relatives who have immigrated abroad. In September, with the input of US administration officials, the San Diego (California)-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Saint Peter the Apostle, compiled a list of tens of thousands of Chaldean Christians who wanted to leave Iraq. The lists were sent to the White House directly, by Bishop Sarhad Jammo, leader of the eparchy in charge of the pastoral care of Chaldeans in the American West.

So, as they reclaim their role as guardians of their cultural identity and community customs, the diaspora communities are promoting the umpteenth migratory wave which could lead to the disappearance of Chaldean communities from many areas where they have been present for thousands of years. An exodus which many are resorting to as a means of escaping problems, violence and persecution. But the lands most of these people are being drawn toward, promise wellbeing and higher standards of living according to the globally imposed forms of Western consumerism.

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Bishop Tobin: Synod voting concept “strikes me as being rather Protestant”

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The Synod discussions

The Synod discussions

The conservative US bishop publishes some comments on the Synod on his diocese’s website. One of them reads: “Pope Francis is fond of “creating a mess.” Mission accomplished”

vatican insider staff Taken from Vatican Insider

“The concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions strikes me as being rather Protestant,” conservative US bishop, Thomas J. Tobin wrote on the website of the Catholic diocese of Providence, commenting on the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Bishop Tobin has criticized Pope Francis in the past for apparently paying too little attention to pro-life issues such as abortion. The bishop did not attend the Synod discussions which recently concluded in the Vatican. One of his “random thoughts” on the Synod reads: “In trying to accommodate the needs of the age, as Pope Francis suggests, the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, counter-cultural, prophetic voice, a voice that the world needs to hear.”


“I wonder,” the bishop asks himself, “what the Second Vatican Council would have looked like and what it would have produced if the social media had existed at that time.” The American prelate expressed his esteem for Cardinal Leo Burke, whom he defined as a “principled, articulate and fearless spokesman for the teachings of the Church.” He concluded with the following two thoughts: “Pope Francis is fond of “creating a mess.” Mission accomplished.” And “Relax. God’s still in charge.”

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Francis: Christians must be inside the Church, not on the threshold


The Pope has breakfast in St. Martha's House

The Pope has breakfast in St. Martha’s House

At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House the Pope reminded faithful that if they aren’t part of this building, the Spirit cannot live in them

Mauro Pianta Taken from Vatican insider

Christians must feel themselves to be part of the Church; they should not just hover on the threshold. They are called to “enter” so “that the Holy Spirit may live in [them]”.  Jesus himself is “the capstone” of the Church. He does not look at man’s sin but at his heart, searching for it so he may heal it. These were the thoughts Francis shared at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Vatican Radio reports.


“Jesus did the “work” 2000 years ago when he chose twelve pillars upon which to build His Church, and positioned himself as the basis and the corner stone.” Then “Jesus opened the doors of that Church to all, without distinction, because Christ is interested in loving and in healing the hearts of men, not in weighing up their sins.” Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day that describes the birth of the Church “built upon the foundation of the Apostles with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” through whom the whole structure is held together, Francis recalled the “actions” carried out by Jesus when he founded the Church: retiring in prayer, choosing his twelve disciples and simultaneously welcoming and healing the crowd.


 “Jesus prays, Jesus calls, Jesus chooses, Jesus sends his disciples out, Jesus heals the crowd. Inside this temple, this Jesus who is the corner stone does all this work: it is He who conducts the Church. As St Paul says, this Church is built on the foundations of the Apostles; he chose twelve of them. All of them sinners. Judas was not the one who sinned the most: I don’t know who sinned the most… Judas, poor man, is the one who closed himself to love and that is why he became a traitor. And they all ran away during the difficult time of the Passion and left Jesus alone. They are all sinners. But He chose.”


“Jesus wants us inside the Church,” Francis said a little earlier, quoting St. Paul. “Not like guests or strangers, but with the “rights of a citizen”. We are not just passing through – he continued – it is where we have our roots. It is where our life is.”


“We are citizens, fellow citizens of this Church. If we do not enter into this temple to be part of this building so that the Holy Spirit may live in us, we are not Church. We are on the threshold and look inside: “How lovely… yes this is beautiful…” Those Christians who do not go beyond the Church’s reception: they are there, at the door…’ Yes, I am Catholic, but not too Catholic…” 


“This is an attitude that has no sense in respect to the total love and mercy that Jesus has for every person. Proof of this is in Christ’s attitude towards Peter, who had been put at the head of the Church. Even though the first pillar was to betrays Jesus, Jesus responds with forgiveness, keeping it in its place,” Vatican Radio writes reporting on the Pope’s homily.


“For Jesus, Peter’s sin was not important: he was looking at his heart. To be able to find this heart and heal it, he prayed. Jesus who prays and Jesus who heals. It is something he does for each of us. We cannot understand the Church without Jesus who prays and heals. May the Holy Spirit help us understand that this Church has its strength is in Jesus’ prayer that can heal us all.”

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Catholic divorce debate heats up

Catholic divorce debate heats up


Pope Francis.

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New Zealand’s senior Catholic believes the church is ready to change its hardline stance on divorcees – something he began lobbying for almost a decade ago.

Archbishop John Dew is among bishops worldwide pushing for a liberal reform of church rules which ban Catholics who divorce, then remarry, from taking Communion – effectively excluding them from church life.

Dew returned from the Catholic Synod – the worldwide council of bishops who advise the Pope on church policy – on Friday, having been among many leading Catholics to speak of their desire for reform on divorce.

Dew was almost a lone voice when he broached the same topic at the 2005 Synod, where he admits he “didn’t get much airtime”, but says he was far from alone at this year’s gathering.

“It was spoken about by a number of bishops and that was a very big change, in the fact that it was spoken openly about,” he said.

“Maybe that’s because at the beginning of the Synod, Pope Francis said people should speak openly and honestly and say what they needed to say in order to look at the situation for families in the church today. It is an issue the church needs to continue to look at, and will continue to look at during the process of this Synod.”

Dew said he was among those who would like to see rules relaxed so those who married a second time could be involved in the church, talking of those “whose marriages broke up through no fault of their own, who have I suppose in some way been abandoned by their spouses who have met someone else . . . then they meet someone else and are looking for company and companionship, but they want to stay a part of the church – we need to find some way to help those people.”

Dew was aware lay Catholics were “deeply concerned” about the issue. He has previously told Catholic media he feared divorcees in strict sectors of the Pacific community in New Zealand could face a stigma, but he said the issue was also clearly one affecting the entire church in the Western world.

The issue stands as a real test of the Pope’s liberal reformist agenda. Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University in England, told the Guardian last month she saw the debate as an “epochal-defining struggle”.

The debate is a contest between liberal pragmatists in the church and hardline conservative theologians.

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Asia Bibi’s appeal is rejected and her death sentence upheld

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A demonstration in support of Asia Bibi

A demonstration in support of Asia Bibi

Her case is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. The news will surely provoke a reaction from the international community

Paolo Affatato
romeThere is no justice for Asia Bibi. The Lahore High Court, a court of second instance, has upheld the death sentence for the Pakistani Christian woman accused of blasphemy. Speaking to Fides news agency, Naeem Shakir, one of the lawyers defending Asia Bibi, said the ruling betrayed the expectations and trust of the defence. The case will now be passed on to the country’s Supreme Court, where Asia Bibi will present an appeal. This will be the final step before hanging.


A broad and detailed appeal was presented during this morning’s hearing, which finally took place after numerous postponements. The case against Bibi – which was based on an allegedly “deliberate act of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad” – was dismantled piece by piece. Bibi was sentenced by a crooked court of first instance, on 8 November 2010. The sentence was mainly based on testimonial evidence.


The main figures in the prosecution are: the complainant, Qari Mohammad Salam, an imam of a mosque in the village of Ittanwali, in the district of Nankana Sahib in Punjab – the village where Bibi was born and lived for 40 years with her humble farming family – and two Muslim nuns, also farm workers, who had argued with Bibi while they were working in the fields. Bibi said the two nuns refused to drink from the same spring as she had because they considered her to be “impure”. This sparked a row which turned from malice and bitterness into an “act of blasphemy”.


The picture seemed crystal clear and according to the principles of criminal justice, there was good reason to be optimistic. After all, Salam, the main accuser was not even physically present when the alleged crime was committed and had not actually heard the woman pronounce the blasphemous words she is accused of uttering. An absurd and paradoxical situation by normal standards, according to criminal proceedings and according to the law: evidence that amounts to hearsay, cannot be admitted at trial.


The personal prejudices of the two women and the fact that the man was physically absent from the “scene of the crime”, were encouraging factors and a reason for Bibi’s defence to be confident. The defending body includes Christian lawyers such as Naeem Shakir, S.K. Choudry, Sardar Mushtaq Gill and the current human rights minister for the Punjab province, Khalil Tahir Sindhu, a Catholic. All very competent men with an extensive experience of blasphemy cases. They say there have been countless cases of acquittals and victories being announced in court in what have often amounted to fabricated legal cases.


And yet, after a four hour hearing, the two-member college of judges, chaired by Justice Anwar ul Haq, rejected the arguments presented by the defence which contested the contradictions in the evidence presented by the prosecution and the lack of credibility. The judge ignored another key point: the obvious fabrication of false accusations. Indeed, the blasphemy charges were made after a village assembly led by the imam, just days after the quarrel. What makes it seem obvious that the whole thing is part of a set-up, is the delay with which the incident was reported to the police: the complaint was lodged and recorded on 19 June 2009, a whole five days after the incriminating episode took place. Here again, the law clearly favours the defence, the lawyers say.


“The judge upheld the accusations made by the two Muslim women who testified to the alleged act of blasphemy committed by Asia,” Shakir says, visibly let down. Radical Islamists infleuenced the judge’s decision: Asia Bibi’s case is emblematic of a woman having a bounty placed on her head, by an imam who is promising to reward the person who kills her.


Pakistan’s magistrates recall the murder of Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a Lahore High Court judge, who was killed in 1997 after he acquitted two young Christians, Salamat and Rehmat Masih. The two Christians had been sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy by a court of first instance. The judge’s death is still a warning and a threat to the courts.


The battle continues despite the obstacles and difficulties that  present themselves, with the added help of a foreseeable international reaction. Bibi’s family will be appealing to the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s highest court of law.


The Court is headed by Chief of Justice Tasaduq Hussain Jillani, an eminent Muslim figure and the country’s most important magistrate. Jillani has often shown himself to be a far-

sighted man who takes a balanced view of things. Last June, he showed great courage in issuing a historic “suo motto” ruling protecting religious minorities in Pakistan and ordering the constitution of the “National Council for the rights of minorities”.

His gesture was seen by Pakistani Christians as an “act which gives renewed strength to rule of law” in the country. This is precisely what is needed in the tragic case of Asia Bibi who has been languishing behind bars for the past five years.

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“The Church is open and excludes no one” Synod says in concluding message

A moment during the Synod discussions


(©Afp) A moment during the Synod discussions

Bishops are to continue to reflect on the issue of remarried divorcees. Governments should do more to promote the rights of families the Synod said, ahead of the publication of the “relatio synodi” this afternoon

vatican city

“Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone,” without leaving anyone out. Hence bishops are called to “accompany couples and families and care for their personal and social wounds.” The message, which was approved by the Synod Fathers, illustrates the “challenges” of family pastoral care, including “the hardships of existence”.


The document takes its inspiration mainly from the Evangelii Gaudium and Francis’ feelings are shared by the majority of bishops, starting with his denunciation of the “fetishism of money and the dictatorship of the economy faceless and aimless truly human.” The document was approved by an overwhelming majority: 158 out of 174 voters.


At the introductory press conference, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Gianfranco Ravasi, reiterated that it is an “open document, the fruit of frank discussions.” The message of the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops underlines that “failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.” This is set against a background of an “enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life.”


Marital crises are “often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another”. The Synod has therefore appealed to governments and international organisations to “promote the rights of the family for the common good.” It praised “the generous faith of many families” and “conjugal love which … endures despite many difficulties.”


In the message approved today ahead of the Synod’s final vote, the fathers wrote: “In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.” The Synod also speared a thought for “children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development.”


In a news briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said: “Today, Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, commented on the content of the message, informing that a series of spontaneous speeches were given on the message. Most of them expressed appreciation and presented proposals for improvements or modifications to a number of points, including some very specific points. In the evening, the commission worked on the message and presented the revised version this morning. This version was re-read, voted on and approved by an overwhelming majority of bishops.”


Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, referred to the example Francis gave during a meeting with superior generals of religious orders, of a girl being adopted by a female couple. The Pope, the Jesuit said, recalled “the case of a very sad little girl who eventually confided in her teacher: “My mum’s girlfriend doesn’t love me.” Fr. Spadaro went on to say that “the situations we experience today therefore present new challenges which may sometimes be difficult for us to understand. How do we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How to announce Christ to a changing generation?” “The Pope,” Fr. Spadaro said, “sees the homosexuality issue as an important educational challenge.”


The newspaper published by the Italian Bishops’ Conference stressed that the Church is not afraid of internal debates. “The summaries of the discussions that have taken place over the past few days in the circoli minores, the different language groups (which were published to ensure transparency) portray the image of a Church that is not afraid to engage in internal debates or discuss the real experiences of families in the current global context. It is aware that new languages and new pastoral approaches are needed in order to reach and get close to everybody,” the Catholic newspaper highlighted in a comment by Stefania Fallasca. “The vexata questio of the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees,” Avvenire newspaper underlined, “was also discussed and what emerged what a willingness to look into this further, from a pastoral point of view too. Proposals are welcome but the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage is to remain untouched.”


The message was very clear: “In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments. We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod,” the Ordinary Synod which is scheduled to take place in October 2015. “We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.

“On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.”

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Advise wanted on Errant Parish Priest


Can any one guide me, We are a Roman Catholic Parish is GOA, Our parish priest is out of control, he has affairs and has removed the sacristan who has seen all what is happening, he has dissolved the Church committee, He demands money as he likes to say the Mass and donation and gives no receipt, Before the priest was appointed we were a have united village now the priest has done Divide and Rule, He speak bad about people on the Altar during his sermon.
People respect word Priest and not the Man and need a Urgent solution
This Priest is a Bad influence to the Christian Religion

Posted in News from Goa/Mangalore | 2 Comments