21 November 2018 at the Patriarchal and Synodal residence in the Danilov monastery in Moscow hosted a meeting of his Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill, members of the Council of leaders of Christian churches of Iraq, according to patriarhiei.
The Council of leaders of Christian Churches of Iraq the meeting was attended by the Archbishop of Iraq (Armenian Apostolic Church), Secretary General of the Council of leaders of Christian Churches of Iraq Avak asadourian, Metropolitan of Bagdad and Kuwait Ghattas Hazim (Antiochian Orthodox Church), Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Kurdish Autonomous region Mar Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf (Syrian Orthodox Church), Bishop of Erbil Mar the outline of the Johan Tiari (Assyrian Church of the East), Protopresbyter Themselves Younan Alfred Ibrahim (Antiochian Orthodox Church), the representative of the Coptic Church in Iraq, the hegumen Mina al-Isalami.
The meeting was also attended by the DECR Secretary for inter-Christian relations hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), DECR Secretariat for inter-Christian relations hieromonk Kirill (Peregudin), representative of the Assyrian Church of the East, rector of the Church of Mat Mariam in Moscow, chorepiscopi Samano, Odisha, staff member of the DECR Secretariat for inter-Christian relations, A. R. Akhmatkhanov, first Secretary, Department of Iraq and of Jordan of the Department of Middle East and North Africa Ministry of foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Yury E. Lapshin.
Welcoming the guests, Patriarch Kirill shared his memories about the visit to Iraq in 2002. “I’ve been in Baghdad, in Mosul, visited temples, monasteries and saw the rich spiritual life of your people. Soon there was aggression against your country, joined the armed forces and, of course, changed a peaceful life. Followed by economic sanctions, and Iraq has undergone many sorrows,” — said His Holiness.
The Primate of the Russian Church noted with regret that not only Iraq fell victim to foreign aggression. He noted that in the current geopolitical environment often state that have a global or regional influence, invading weaker States, leading to chaos, immigration crisis and a humanitarian catastrophe
“The example of Iraq is one of the most dramatic examples, what makes the country of foreign aggression. When I visited Iraq, I was told that in this country lives more than half a million Christians. They say that now Christians ten times less,” — said his Holiness.
According to Patriarch Kirill, in addition to aggression, great damage to the state and people caused the action of extremist militants in Iraq who were kidnapped clergy and laity, destroyed Christian churches. The Primate recalled that the Russian Orthodox Church has always raised his voice in defence of the Christian population of Iraq.
“We appreciate that, despite the difficult situation, our Church has developed links with Christians of the Middle East — said His Holiness. Recently, on my instruction, the Chairman of the Department for external Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk visited Damascus, where he participated in the interreligious Meeting of the high level. It is very important to develop inter-Christian communication is to, first and foremost, to support the Christian population of the Middle East countries. Of course, we attach great importance to programs of humanitarian assistance in your region. In particular, this applies to Syria, but we are ready to develop the relevant activity in respect of Iraq.”
His Holiness also spoke about a meeting held in March this year mission to Iraq, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov) and a representative of the Assyrian Church of the East in Russia chorepiscopi Samano, Odisha. The purpose of the trip was the intensification of the Russian Orthodox Church’s cooperation with the Christian churches and other religious communities in Iraq in response to addressed from their side requests in the context of the efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate in the sphere of support of the population in the Middle East affected by the tragic events of recent years.
His Holiness also mentioned about his meeting with a delegation of Yezidi people, which took place in October of this year at the Patriarchal and Synodal residence in the Danilov monastery.
“We nostradam the Iraqi people, who bear such hardships today, suffering from the consequences of foreign aggression and civil war,” — said the Patriarch.
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed serious concern in connection with the destruction of Christian Holy sites of Iraq. “We are very worried about what happened, including, in the Nineveh valley in Iraq, where there are many Christian cities, temples were destroyed or desecrated, he said. — I was told that the city Batnaya destroyed 90 percent of the Christian buildings. It really is a civilizational catastrophe. And at a time when the world concerned with the topic of human rights, the protection of religious minorities, in front of everyone there are such lawlessness. All together it is very important to make the middle Eastern Christian Holy places were restored, and the Christians returned to Iraq and also in Syria and other places where they always lived and where he was exiled by war or civil conflicts.”
In turn, the Archbishop of Iraq, the Secretary General of the Council of leaders of Christian Churches Avak asadourian (Armenian Apostolic Church) appealed to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church with the words: “First of all, I would like to thank You, Your Holiness, for the meeting and for their willingness to start a conversation about our problems. We are very grateful for Your position and support of the Christian brotherhood.”
The Archbishop also talked about the fact that today the people of Iraq in humanitarian terms, still remains difficult due to ongoing violence.
“The issues that stand before us today — how can we preserve our Churches in our country how to stop the violence, how to spread equality, justice. We believe that one of the answers to these questions is that we have to consider ourselves not as individuals, but as members of a United society. Our Christian Iraqi society is a symbol of peace and calls for renewal and reform,” he said.
The Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Kurdish Autonomous region Mar Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf (Syrian Orthodox Church) conveyed to His Holiness greetings from Patriarch Mar Ignatius Ephrem II said: “We feel here, communicating with You as our father. It is important for us to feel that the Russian Orthodox Church thinks and worries about his Iraqi brothers. Unfortunately, in recent years, we were abandoned by all. Thank Your Holiness for the attention to our needs. Thank You for that in the spring of this year You sent us a representative, hieromonk Stephen, with whom we had constructive talks, and we are now taking in Moscow. We see this as key to the continuation of our cooperation.”
The Bishop of Erbil Mar the outline of the Johan Tiari (Assyrian Church of the East) expressed the hope that a favourable Russia’s role in Iraq will increase and will be beneficial, as in Syria.
The representative of the Coptic Church in Iraq, the hegumen Mina al-Isalami said that the East always remember that the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries has always helped Christians in the middle East and defended the oppressed.
Metropolitan of Bagdad and Kuwait Ghattas Hazim (Antiochian Orthodox Church) brought greetings from the Primate of Antiochian Orthodox Church his Beatitude Patriarch of Antioch and all the East John X, and in particular, said: “I would Like to convey the gratitude and love of the Syrian people for what you have done with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state. We are witnessing dangerous challenges encountered by the Russian Church and the Orthodox world in General. Our people pray for Russia, for the Russian Orthodox Church and looks at it with great hope.”
The participants of the meeting expressed special gratitude for the organization of the visit to the Russian Embassy in Baghdad and personally to Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Iraq M. K. Maksimov and staff of the Embassy.
At the end of the meeting his Holiness Patriarch Kirill stressed that the Russian Orthodox Church in solidarity with the people of Iraq, and its contacts with the Iraqi Christians should certainly continue that will go to specific projects associated with the assistance.