Chaldean Patriarch Appointed in Baghdad

( [email protected] ) Dec 23, 2003 10:29 AM EST

BAGHDAD - The largest Christian denomination in Iraq appointed a patriarch to lead both its domestic and international members. Patriarch Monsignor Emmanuelle-Karim Delly, 76, was installed at a ceremony at St. Joseph Church in the capital with the vote of the 22 bishops in the Chaldean Catholic Church.

"All Iraq is our homeland. Iraq is for us all, from north to south," Delly said during Sunday’s ceremony, calling for brotherhood among Chaldeans, other Christians, Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni Muslim minority.

"We are just one family, the Iraqi family," Delly said before a church filled with about 300 people including dozens of nuns, members of Iraq's interim governing council and Shiite and Sunni leaders. He pledged to work together with Muslims "in all conditions."

Monsignor Ishlemon Wardouni, in a homily to welcome Delly, said the new patriarch had been chosen amid "cruel conditions" in his country.

"We are asking God to help him in his ship, especially in these times, to reach the harbour of peace," said Wardouni.

He urged Delly to promote religious unity and to help build a new, democratic Iraq respectful of human rights.

"We should always be together, all religions, all nations together," said Wardouni.

The ceremony lasted almost three hours and was conducted in both Arabic and Aramaic, the language of Christ, which the Chaldeans still use in their liturgy. It began with a procession of chanting clerics who led the new patriarch into the church. An old woman reached out from her pew to touch the bespectacled, white-bearded man as he passed.

With 700,000 members, Chaldeans constitute the largest Christian denomination in Iraq. Delly, as the patriarch of the denomination, also represents Chaldeans overseas.