As Christians prepare for Christmas amid ongoing wars and worldwide crises, Cardinal Raphael Sako of Baghdad has invited Chaldean Catholics across the world to join in a special 3-day fasting for peace. The fast will be observed from 21 to 23 December.
The true meaning of Christmas
In a message published on the website of the Chaldean Patriarchate, the Patriarch reminds the faithful that “Christmas is not just about celebrating the memory of something that happened 2,000 years ago and folklore. It is the awareness of, and faith in the ongoing loving and merciful presence of God among us. We must therefore prepare for fasting that brings us back to the happy announcement of Christmas”, the head of the Chaldean Church says. “This helps us to reinforce our human and spiritual values”.
Supporting displaced Christian families in Iraq
Cardinal Sako suggests that the three-day fast also be accompanied by concrete support to needy families, such as the 120 displaces Christian families from Mosul and the Nineveh Plan who have recently been expelled by local authorities from a compound in east Baghdad to make space for shopping centers.
The families had fled their homes in 2014 following the occupation of the region by the Islamic State of Iraq. The Patriarchate has now offered to shelter them in the recently renewed buildings of the former Chaldean seminary in Dora, a suburb south of Baghdad, which before the second Gulf War in 2003 was home to some 150,000 Christians.
Charity work for the needy
According to Cardinal Sako, the special fasting days for peace, should also be a time of prayer and penance, turning away from sinful behaviours and attitudes and dedicating time to to charity work instead.
For its part, the Chaldean Archdiocese of Baghdad is donating of 50 million Iraqi Dinars (equal to over 32,000 Euros) to support the needy, while the local Caritas is offering 800 food boxes.
Cardinal Sako's concerns for the war in Eastern Europe
On Sunday, as he blessed the figurines of the Child Jesus brought by the children attending the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, invited them t to pray, before the crib that the Nativity of the Lord will bring a ray of peace to children all over the world, especially those living in war-torn countries, in particular in Ukraine.
During the past nine months Cardinal Sako has repeatedly evoked the war in Eastern Europe, joining Pope Francis’ relentless appeals for peace, and voicing his concerns for the negative impact of the conflict also in the Middle East, and specifically on the Church's charitable work and on the dwindling local Christian community, facing insecurity, political instability and the economic crisis resulting from the war.