Ankawa, Iraq -- Exactly one year after his election as Patriarch, Mar Awa III, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, was the guest of honor at the lunch organized at the end of the spiritual exercises that from 5 to 8 September saw the participation of more than eighty bishops and priests of the Chaldean Church. The spiritual exercises and the final lunch were held in Ankawa, a predominantly Christian suburb of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, had extended the invitation to Mar Awa - as reported by the media of the Chaldean Patriarchate - who welcomed the Assyrian Patriarch and the delegation that accompanied him, expressing his hope that strengthen the bonds of communion between the two Churches, for the good of Christians and of the entire Iraqi people.
Mar Awa, born David Royel, was elected the 122nd Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East on September 8, 2021, succeeding Patriarch Mar Gewargis III Sliwa. As previously reported by Fides (see Fides, 22/10/2021), Mar Awa comes from the USA and studied at Catholic academies, including the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.
The Assyrian Church of the East has never been in direct dogmatic conflict with the Bishop of Rome. The official theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East began in 1984 and led to the 1994 'Joint Christological Declaration', which confessed the shared faith in Christ between Catholics and Assyrians. Now, this fraternal theological dialogue continues on the subject of the sacraments and the sacramental nature of the Church. Since 2001, the Assyrian Church of the East has authorized experiences of Eucharistic hospitality with the Chaldean Church, in pastoral situations that require it.
The theology and spirituality of the Assyrian Church and the Chaldean Church emphasize the human nature of Christ.
In September 2013, Louis Raphael Sako, who had become Patriarch of the Chaldean Church a few months before, had addressed an official invitation to the then Assyrian Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV to start a path of dialogue together to restore full ecclesial communion between the Chaldean Christian community - united to the Bishop of Rome - and the Assyrian, which share the same liturgical, theological and spiritual heritage.
Jordanian priest Hanna Kildani, former vicar for Israel of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, preached the spiritual exercises for the Chaldean clergy.