This nomination is “a support on the part of the universal Church and of the Holy See, a stimulus to hope, an encouragement to go forward toward the country’s reconciliation,” said the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I Sako, who will be created Cardinal on June 29, 2018.
“It’s not for me, but for the Church, which has suffered so much, and for Iraq,” said the Patriarch to Vatican News in Italian, after the Pope’s announcement on May 20, 2018: it’s “for the whole country, for the Christians as well as the Muslims,” he added.
“It’s not the first time that the Pope thinks of the Churches in distress. He created the Nuncio in Syria Cardinal in this way, and today it’s for Iraq.” In fact, Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, was among the 17 Cardinals “created” on November 19, 2016, as a sign of Pope Francis’ solicitude for “beloved and martyred Syria.”
So the Pontiff is a “father, he opens his eyes and sees where there is need of great support,” continued Patriarch Sako. “That also means that the Church is living, that she’s strong and that it’s necessary to persevere, to stay to witness the Gospel.”
The Cardinal said he had received a number of phone calls from “Muslims, Christians, simple people and civil officials.” “They all said to me that this nomination is for us, for Iraq, for Muslims . . . A Muslim said to me that this nomination is for all believers in God.”
According to the biography published by the Holy See, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako was born on July 4, 1948 in Zakho, Iraq. He studied at the Saint John Seminary held by the Dominican Fathers at Mossul.
Ordained priest on June 1, 1974, he served in Mosul’s Cathedral until 1979. Sent to Rome, he attended Pontifical Oriental Institute, obtaining a doctorate in Oriental Patrology. Later, he obtained a doctorate in history at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
From 1997 to 2002, he held the post of Rector of the Patriarchal Seminary in Baghdad. Then, he returned to Mosul as parish priest until his election as Archbishop of Kirkuk on September 27, 2003. He received episcopal ordination on November 14, 2003.
On January 31, 2013, in the course of the Synod convoked in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI, after the renunciation of Cardinal Emmanuel III Karim Delly of the office of Patriarch of Babylon, he was elected Patriarch. His election was confirmed by the Pope the following February 1.
Patriarch Sako has published books on the Fathers of the Church and numerous articles. In addition to Arabic and Chaldean, he understands German, and speaks French, English and Italian.