Iraqi bishops warn priests against aiding Christian exodus

The Church should not be involved in aiding the exodus of Christians from Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako has said.

Christians light candles at a church in Dohuk, northern Iraq, earlier this year.Ari Jalal/Reuters

Although individual Christians and families remain free to leave the country, the Church should not support any plan for the exodus of Christians, the patriarch said, according to Fides.

He was speaking at a meeting of the Chaldean bishops in Erbil. A statement released at the end of the meeting warned priests that they should not be involved directly in programmes that organise the expatriation of Iraqi Christians to foreign countries. Anyone who ignores the reprimand will be held personally responsible, potentially in front of a patriarchal authority, the statement said.

The bishops warned Iraqi Christians of the danger of exploitation by illegal traffickers and "unscrupulous organisations" that claim to resettle families in other countries.

The bishops also cautioned patriarchal clergy and pastoral workers against involvement with groups that are supporting the exodus for their personal "economic, political, and media interests".

"The Christian populations who have fled Mosul and Nineveh Plain with the arrival of the self-proclaimed Islamic State jihadists, and now live in precarious conditions in Erbil and other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan" are most at risk, a statement from the bishops sent to Fides read.

The bishops called for action and cooperation from the international community to liberate the areas of Iraq currently controlled by Islamic State. This responsibility must not fall on the Church, political parties or the Iraqi government alone, they said.