East County News Service
Photo: St. Peter’s Cathedral in El Cajon; photo by Khari Johnson
January 18, 2015 (El Cajon)—Chaldean Church Patriarch Louis Sako has issued a statement published in an Arabic language publication indicating that he refuses to recognize the authority of Pope Francis.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis informed St. Peter’s Cathedral in El Cajon that he had granted their request and overturned a decree by Sako, who last October had ordered about ten priests in the U.S. to return to Iraq, including Father Noel Gorgis at St. Peter’s.
St. Peter’s had appealed Sako’s decision to the Pope, contending that the order amounted to suicide for the priests, since ISIS terrorists are murdering priests in Iraq. Sako had indicated that priests who refused his order would be stripped of the priesthood.
But now the Arabic publication Aleteia has reportedly published a statement from Patriarch Sako in which he claims authority over the Chaldean Church of San Diego, effectively defying the papal order.
"We have been there for 2,000 years," he said of Iraq. "We have a mission and a role, and if a future exists for the Chaldean Church, it is not in the diaspora but in Iraq. If all the families leave, and even the priests, the entire history and Chaldean Christian patrimony will vanish."
Sako implies that the Pope’s decree is inapplicable and faults Bishop Sarhad Jammo for the appeal, stating that the “priests are not his” and warns believers “not to be dragged into the actions” of the Bishop.
Patriarch Sako’s statement drew swift condemnation from Mark Arabo, president of the Neighborhood Market Association and a national spokesman for Chaldean-Americans.
"We recognize the Pope's decision to be true and overarching,” Arabo said. “Any statement by a lesser authority cannot be recognized. The Pope decision is not simply a solution, it is the only solution. We look forward to seeing Father Noel every Sunday from here on out."
Also of note, on January 7th, an Aleteia article indicated Pope Francis wants to visit Iraq. The publication cited French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin as its source.