Bishops in Iraq have issued a formal statement praising the Iraqi army, Kurdish and tribal forces in freeing many towns and cities from the ravages of Islamic State.
They warn: "Iraq stands today at a dangerous crossroads that represents a historic turning point and we should deal with it wisely. The current opportunity imposes on every one of us a historic responsibility that we should not miss."
The Chaldean Catholic bishops prayed for God to "culminate these victories" by releasing Mosul, the Nineveh plains and every other area of Iraq still held by ISIS.
They also asked God to shower mercy on Christian martyrs and to bless the wounded with speedy recovery.
In a statement issued at the end of a meeting in Ankawa in Erbil, the bishops also declared their support and solidarity with the millions of forcibly displaced and migrated people, "hoping that their suffering will end in the near future, when they will be able to go back to their homes and live in freedom, dignity and peace."
The Chaldean Patriarchate is responsible for nine of the 14 Catholic dioceses in Iraq. The Chaldeans are among the Eastern-rite churches that are part of the Roman Catholic Church.
The head of the church, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, was at the meeting held yesterday to discuss latest developments in Iraq and the region, especially the plight of Iraqi Christians who have been severely persecuted.
The bishops warned of the "serious impact" on living conditions of many Iraqis due to "widespread financial corruptions, with the sharp economic decline and the resulted severe fiscal crisis."
In particular, the bishops are worried about the security status of the country given the large number of families living at or below the poverty line.
The bishops called for the "wise" Islamic authorities to help make sure basic services are provided, that social justice is restored along with human rights, and that sectarian and partisan gains are abandoned. They called for Christians to be included in the new government.
"We confirm our support for the Iraqi citizens in demanding reform, which has become a matter of urgency that cannot be separated from the process of speeding up a genuine national and comprehensive reconciliation in order to establish a real political partnership, away from sectarian quotas and favoritism in all its forms," the bishops said.
Reform should start with a change of heart and liberation of the soul, they said.
"We call Christians to be patient, persistent and not to be dragged into a random immigration," the bishops said. "We stress once again the need to protect Christians' homes and properties and to stop seizing them illegally."
The bishops said there was no way to overcome the crisis other than facing the "chronic" problems with courage, strength and determination.