Peace and Security for the Land of Abraham
Elected on December 3rd at the end of the Synod called by the Pope, he is 76 years old, and for forty years was Auxiliary Bishop of the Chaldeans. In Baghdad during the war, he never abandoned his people

edited by Lucio Brunelli

“War is never a good thing. War brings destruction and death. It never brings good.” Emmanuel III Delly, the new Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, is wise. He is a small man with gray hair. He is 76 years old, and for the past forty years he has been in Baghdad as Auxiliary Bishop. We met him in the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, a few hours after his election by the 22 bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Synod, on December 3rd. There is no resentment in his words as he repeats his condemnation of the war, only love for truth and compassion for his people. “The Lord has given us intelligence to follow alternative ways to that of arms for solving international controversies: the way of dialogue, of negotiation. God said, “Thou shalt not kill.”
If you travel in the Middle East, it’s not rare to meet religious leaders, Arabs and, at times, Christians, who speak more like militants than like men of God. The new Patriarch is not one of these. You will never hear resentful invectives against the American forces of occupation from him. Instead, he asks the foreign troops not to leave the country, because at this point the ensuing chaos would be disastrous.

May Our Lady help us
However, His Beatitude has been too close to the horror and the bereavement of war to tell us that military intervention was the inevitable way to save his people. He himself was a victim of violence. On March 21st, allied bombs fell just a few yards from the Patriarch’s residence in Baghdad. “I was making a telephone call to the Vatican.” Delly told us, “All the windows were shattered and the receiver flew out of my hand…” He was wounded by a shard of glass, fortunately not gravely. A narrow escape. The following day, in an interview with Vatican Radio, he said, “I am alright, I am still alive; but the bombing is still going ahead, even now. There are a lot of ruins, and many cries from the people, from children. Those who have such a hard heart should at least have a more fatherly heart. Here in the Patriarchate, yesterday evening, we prayed, we celebrated Mass, and made the Way of the Cross with all the bishops and the Papal Nuncio. We asked the Lord to protect us and Our Lady to help us to bear this catastrophe.”
The most trustworthy estimates of the victims in the Iraq conflict put the figures at 9,000 civil deaths: old people, women and children, innocent civilians, like the Americans buried under the rubble of the Twin Towers. “In Iraq there were fewer dead than in one weekend of car accidents,” a well-known Italian politician said some months ago: a blend of ignorance and cynicism over which it is better to spread a pitiful veil. Now, it’s better and more realistic to look ahead.

God doesn’t want people to kill each other
What task faces the Chaldean Church (over half a million faithful in Iraq) in this long, endless, post-war period? “The Church is living in the same situation as the entire Iraqi people, a situation of suffering that has lasted too long. Our first task is prayer. We pray and ask everyone to pray the Lord to take away this suffering and that the land of Mesopotamia, the ancient land of Abraham, may find a little peace. God doesn’t want people to kill each other. And now it’s not only Iraqis who are dying, but many foreign brothers…. I take this opportunity to express my deep condolences for the Italian soldiers killed in Nassiriya. They had come to help us; they are martyrs of their duty. The Archbishop of Bassora knew them well. He had gone to visit the Italian contingent after that tragic episode, and he told me that the carabinieri were very much respected by the population.”
What do you ask of the foreign troops in Iraq? “To give us security. People are very afraid, they don’t go out any more; there is no security. This is partly because there are many enemies coming from outside the country…. It’s not Iraqis who commit the worst crimes and want to prevent us re-establishing the peace and tranquility we long for…. I left Baghdad to come here to the Vatican on the day they fired a missile at the Italian Embassy. Who did it? We don’t know yet, but the majority of Iraqis ask only for peace and security. They refuse violence.

Peaceful coexistence
with the Muslims

Some Iraqi bishops have denounced ill treatment of the Christian minority and accuse Islamic extremist groups. There is fear that the future could bring an Islamic regime to power. Are you also worried about this? “For over a thousand years, we Christians in Iraq have lived in peace with our Muslim brothers. Islam is a good thing. I would never say a word against Islam. If Muslims were to follow the principles of the Koran, it would be a good thing, just as it would be a good thing if Christians were to follow the principles of the Gospel. Unfortunately, very often neither Christians nor Muslims follow the teachings of these sacred books.”

For the Unity of the Church
Here are some extracts from the letter in which His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly asked John Paul II for ecclesiastical communion (as required by the canonical norms that acknowledge the Chaldean bishops the right to elect their own Patriarch). Then there are some extracts from the Holy Father’s address at the audience with the new Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, together with the members of the Chaldean Church Synod. Vatican City, December 3, 2003.

Holy Father, following the canons, I come to ask Your Holiness for ecclesiastica communio [ecclesiastical communion]. I wish at the same time to manifest to your Holiness all my attachment and that of the Chaldean Church, and my devotion. I will try, with God’s help, to do what is possible for the unity of the Church in this tragic situation in which the Middle East, and Iraq in particular, finds itself.
Emmanuel III Delly
Your Beatitude, you have asked for “ecclesiastica communio.” I very willingly comply with this request. In view of this, I entrusted the responsibility of its confirmation to Cardinal Moussa I Daoud, according to the praxis, in the Eucharistic Celebration that will be held in St Peter’s Basilica. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, principle and visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, enables the individual Churches to live and work within the mystery of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Chaldean Church is proud to witness to Christ in the land from which “Abraham, our father in the faith” set forth, and to draw its apostolic origins from the preaching of “Thomas, one of the Twelve”. As a living member of the one vital sap that flows from Christ, the Chaldean Church must continue to flourish, faithful to her own identity, producing abundant fruit for the good of the entire ecclesiastical body. Venerable Brothers, develop ever more the unanimous consonance which resounded among you in this Synod. Indeed, the unity of intentions will allow for a full growth of the ecclesial life. Harmony is all the more necessary looking at your Country, today more than ever in need of true peace and tranquillity of order. Work to “unite the strength” of all believers in respectful dialogue, which favors the building of a stable and free society at every level.
John Paul II