Iraqi Patriarch Sako: “The pope is close to us, even when he is not here.”

Papal donation from Lamborghini auction gives Iraqi Christians courage

“Iraqi Christians were deeply moved by the gesture of the Holy Father,” said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphaël I Sako to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Pope Francis has promised to donate a part of the funds raised from the auction of a special edition Lamborghini Huracan to charities including this pontifical foundation. The pontifex recently received the sports car as a gift. Pope Francis would like to use some of the proceeds from the auction to support Aid to the Church in Need’s project for Christians returning to the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq.

“By now I have become used to Francis’s surprises,” the patriarch added. This gesture “perfectly embodies Christian charity through concrete deeds.” It was widely reported by Iraqi media and closely followed, particularly by the Christian community. “It is not the first time that the pope has made a gesture like this to show us that he is close to us. He has not been able to visit us yet, but sometimes a humanitarian and spiritual presence is more important than a physical one.”

The news about this additional support from Rome has come at a very delicate time for the Nineveh Plains. Tensions in the area have intensified after the Kurdish independence referendum. “At the moment, the situation has calmed down and there is an openness towards dialogue. However, Iraq needs more. It will be necessary to separate church and state and implement a new concept of citizenship, which entitles every Iraqi to the same dignity, irrespective of his or her religious affiliation.”

In the meantime, Aid to the Church in Need’s project continues to encourage displaced persons from Iraq to return to their Christian villages on the Nineveh Plains. “We would like to show that the Christian religion is still here in this country. Our presence is crucial for the members of all religions. Because Christianity represents an element of tolerance that has the ability to counter violence.” A fundamental teaching of Christianity is the forgiveness of enemies and persecutors and the active pursuit of peaceful coexistence. In order to achieve this, the patriarch has called for further support in word, deed and joint prayer.

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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.