Other challenges came in the shape of government demands for seminary reform and the extension of military service to priests and religious; to be followed in 1975 by the nationalisation of the school system which had a direct impact upon Catholic schools. In 1984, during the Iran-Iraq war, Cheikho led an ecumenical and interfaith delegation to the Vatican in witness to the suffering of Iraqi society in general, and of Christian communities in particular. While remaining loyal to the Iraqi government, he stood up for the rights of the church. For example, he opposed the government when it sought to impose the study of the Qur'an in Christian schools.
As bishop of Amadiya in Kurdistan from 1957 to 1965 Cheikho's successor Mar Raphael Bidawid dealt with the opening stages of the Christian exodus from northern Iraq. He was then transferred to the Chaldean diocese of Beirut (Lebanon) until his election as patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1989. His death in Beirut on 7 July 2003, shortly after the collapse of the Ba'athist regime in Baghdad, complicated the election of a successor, which required the intervention of the Vatican. Pope John Paul II called the Chaldean bishops to Rome for deliberations, which ended in the election on 3 December 2003 of the 76-year-old Emmanuel-Karim Delly as patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, taking the name Emmanuel III.67 In accordance with the pope's preference for a concelebrated liturgy as an affirmation of unity, the Cardinal Prefect Ignatius Musa I Da'ud and the new patriarch concelebrated the Divine Liturgy using the Chaldean rite at the altar of the 'Chair' in the basilica of St Peter.68
The Chaldean Church, with over 70 per cent of all Christians, is the largest church in modern Iraq. In Baghdad alone, which is one of the largest Christian centres in the Middle East, there are some thirty parishes with a total of 200,000-250,000 faithful. There are other Iraqi dioceses at Kirkuk, Irbil, Basra, Mosul, Alqosh, Amadiya and al-Sulaymaniyya, Aqra and Zakho. The Chaldean diaspora represents a significant element of the church, with bishops and dioceses in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Armenia and Georgia, Israel and Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Australasia, Europe and North America. The church has also had to develop a flexible response to the number of Christian refugees in the region; for example, Bidawid appointed a patriarchal vicar in 2002 to care for the Chaldean refugees in Jordan living in difficult circumstances. In America a new eparchy was established in 2002 for some 35,000 new Chaldean arrivals.
67 La Croix, 5 September 2003.
68 L'OsservatoreRomano, 16 December 2003.
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