ASIA/IRAQ - The New Assyrian Patriarch during the inauguration ceremony: religious language must be put at the service of peace

Erbil - Political and religious speeches should serve to instill the spirit of love and service in the hearts, and not the contrary, fomenting conflict and division. This is the key concept expressed by Mar Gewargis III, new Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at the liturgy for his inauguration, which marked the beginning of his patriarchal ministry. The ceremony, broadcast live on local media, was held at the church of Saint John the Baptist in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil inhabited mostly by Christians, and where now a large part of the Christians in the Nineveh Plain forced to abandon their homes ahead of the offensive jihadist Islamic State are concentrated. The liturgy was also attended by Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II. The Holy See was represented by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Mar Gewargis III succeeds Mar Dinkha IV who died in March in the US, after a patriarchal mandate which lasted 39 years. The Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East had chosen its new Patriarch on September 16. 74 year-old Mar Gewargis Sliwa, former Metropolitan of Iraq, Jordan and Russia, was the only Assyrian Metropolitan still residing in Iraq. The patriarchal Assyrian seat, following the exile of Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, has been in Chicago since 1940, in the United States. In 2006 the project of building a patriarchal residence in Erbil began, which is still being carried out today and suggests a possible future transfer of the patriarchal seat in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.