On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, His Beatitude, Patriarch Louis Sako, issued a decree stating that: “the following monks and priests shall be suspended from practicing priestly ministry.” This refers to nine of the priests of St. Peter Diocese. We want the faithful of our Diocese to know that we have made an official Appeal to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, so that the faithful are not deprived from the priestly channel of grace to which they are entitled, in accordance with Canon 16 of the Eastern Code, which states: “The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the pastors of the Church from the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the Word of God and the Sacraments.”
Our Diocese has the moral and pastoral obligation to do its best to protect her priests and to provide priestly services to her faithful, in order to avoid a pastoral catastrophe as a consequence of losing more than half of her active priests. Examples of such pastoral catastrophes would be: (1) Closing 5 Parishes and 3 Missions, basically half of the Diocese. (2) Depriving half of our faithful of sacramental graces: Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick, as well as funerals, counseling, visiting families, etc. (3) Causing the remaining functioning priests to collapse as a result of unfulfilled pastoral demands given to them from those missions and parishes deprived of their priests. (4)Scandalizing the faithful of the Church as they see their priests without their priestly faculties.
Therefore, according to Eastern Canon 1319, which states “An appeal suspends the execution of a sentence,” these nine priests are not suspended and will continue exercising their priestly ministry fully, legitimately, and honorably, with the rest of the Diocesan clergy. We ask all the faithful to pray for the whole Chaldean Catholic Church, as we await the pastoral directive of the Holy Father, in total obedience and unity.
In full communion with the Bishop of Rome and in full Unity with the Chaldean Church, our Diocese, striving to become a leaven for the Chaldean Church, with her Eparch, Clergy, all institutions and faithful, is fully committed to the Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church, in all of its structure and details, especially in regard to Eastern Rite and Diocesan organization.
According to the Eastern Code Canon Law of the Church, the Holy Father is the visible head of the whole Church:
Canon 43 - The bishop of the Church of Rome, in whom resides the office given in special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the entire Church on earth; therefore, in virtue of his office he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise.
The Patriarch is the spiritual Father of his flock in the way determined by Canon 78:
Canon 78 - §2. “The power of the patriarch is exercised validly only inside the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal Church unless the nature of the matter or the common or particular law approved by the Roman Pontiff establishes otherwise.”
Outside the Patriarchal Territories, the Patriarch has authority over liturgical matters approved by the Holy See:
Canon 150 - §2. Laws enacted by the synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church and promulgated by the patriarch, if they are liturgical, have the force of law everywhere in the world; if, however, they are disciplinary laws or concern other decisions of the synod, they have the force of law inside the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal Church.
The Bishop of the Diocese is the Shepherd of his Diocese as described by Canon 178:
Canon 178 - The eparchial bishop, as a vicar and legate of Christ, governs in his own name the eparchy entrusted to him for shepherding. This power, which he exercises personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the Supreme Authority of the Church and can be defined with certain limits should the usefulness of the Church or the Christian faithful require it.