Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, in red, leads a 2016 prayer service with other religious leaders at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help in in Ainkawa, Iraq. The patriarch is supporting a more than 80-mile peace march during Holy Week. (CNS photo/Amel Pain, EPA)
IRBIL, Iraq (CNS) -- The Chaldean Catholic patriarch is supporting a more than 80-mile peace march during Holy Week to urge an end to violence in his homeland and throughout the Middle East.
The Chaldean Catholic Church has dedicated 2017 as the Year of Peace. For the patriarch, Holy Week culminating in the Easter celebration offers a fresh hope to breathe new life into prayer and reflection, reconciliation and dialogue.
"Peace must be achieved by us (religious leaders) as well as politicians, through courageous initiatives and responsible decisions," said Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.
He has repeatedly called on Iraqis to engage in "serious dialogue, openness and honesty" to realize national reconciliation and unity among the country's vast mosaic of religious and ethnic peoples, battered by years of sectarian violence.
"Some 100 people, Iraqis and foreigners, are expected to participate in the march, which will begin on Palm Sunday (April 9) with a Mass in Irbil," the patriarch told Catholic News Service by phone.
"They will walk from Irbil to Alqosh in the Ninevah Plain, needing one week or more because the journey is very long, some (140 kilometers) 87 miles," he said. "I will join them in a village near Alqosh on Holy Thursday," April 13.
The march presents a "great occasion for unity," and a common front against the violence and bloodshed that have scarred Iraq and the region, he said.