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Bishop Mar Awa Royel Visits China

Following up on to the previous visit in October of 2010, His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, Diocese of California, and Secretary of the Holy Synod, accompanied by his secretary Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar and Deacon Allen Youssefi returned to Hong Kong, in response to an invitation from the Jingjiao Fellowship and its director Mr. David Tam.

Arriving at the Hong Kong airport on Tuesday October 3rd 2012, His Grace and the entourage were received by Mr. David Tam, Director of the Jingjiao Fellowship and the catalyst for the entire arrangements, along with Mr. Isaac Wong.

After arriving in Xian (Mainland China) on Wednesday October 24th, preparations were made for His Grace to visit the Xi’an Beilin (Stele) Museum, in particular the Forest of Steles section, containing the Jingjiao (Assyrian Church of the East) monument erected in 781AD, commemorating the mission of the Church of the East to that country in the era of the T’ang Dynasty. There His Grace was officially greeted and received by the representative of the curator of the museum who in turn introduced Will to assist with the tour of the Museum. A considerable time was spent at the Jingjiao Stele where His Grace closely examined the Assyrian inscriptions.

Following the visit to the Museum of Steles, and on the route to the Jingjiao site to visit the Daqin Pagoda, a stop off was made at our sister Jenny Bai’s house who had requested for His Grace to visit her home and offer prayers of blessings to her and her parents.

On Saturday October 27th, the Holy Eucharist (in the Aramaic) language was celebrated by His Grace, assisted by Rev. Fr. Genard and Deacon Allen in one of the churches in the city. A number of invited parishioners attend the service and were spiritually uplifted after receiving the Holy Eucharist (Qurbana Qadisha).

Returning back to Hong Kong on Monday, October 29th His Grace presented a Lecture at the Chung Chi College Divinity School (Chinese University of Hong Kong) on ‘The Sacraments of the Assyrian Church of the East.’ An engaging Q&A session was provided for participants to ask questions, which saw quite a number of students expressing their intentions to increase their knowledge and understanding of the Assyrian Church of the East’s (Jingjiao) faith, doctrine and sacraments. The Holy Eucharist was celebrated by His Grace at the College chapel, and it is worth mentioning that the Jingjiao Fellowship membership increased from 200 to 500 prior to commencement, during and after the conclusion of the service. Following the Eucharistic service, dinner was hosted by the College.

On Tuesday October 30th, His Grace met with the officials of the Hong Kong Christian Council, discussing the process and prospects for the establishment of the Assyrian Church of the East in Hong Kong. On the same day, another lecture was presented by His Grace at the Lutheran Theological Seminary titled ‘The Historical Development of the Rite of the Assyrian Church of the East: Origins to the First Six Centuries.’ In the same afternoon a meeting was held at the Institution of Sino Christian Studies (ISCS) in which were present His Grace, Rev. Fr. Genard, Deacon Allen, Mr. Daniel Yeung (director of the Institution), Mr. Jason Lam and Ms. Liang Rong. During this meeting Mr. Yeung reported on the progress of the translation of the first volume of the project of a series of translations of the theological works of the Assyrian Church of the East, which was the collection of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia in the Chinese language. The works of Theodore which are being translated are his Commentary on the Nicene Creed, On Holy Baptism, On the Holy Eucharist (Qurbana Qadisha) and the On the Lord’s Prayer. Discussions were made on the works of St. Ephraim the Assyrian and various Church of the East fathers. Professor Zhu Donghua from the University of Tsinghua has been engated as the translator of the writings. Following the meeting, a press interview was conducted with His Grace by the local Anglican archdiocese newspaper.

The final meeting prior to the date of departure for San Francisco, a meeting took place at the Anglican Church’s All Saint’s Cathedral in Hong Kong. His Grace was received by Rt. Rev. Paul Chan and the parish priests. During this meeting, His grace made a request on behalf of the Jingjiao Fellowship to be provided with a meeting place. Bishop Chan responded favorably and mentioned further assistance would be gladly provided by the Church.

Finally, His Grace also met with Dr. David Wilmshurst, Academic Editor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and author of the recently released book on the history of the Assyrian Church of the East titled The Martyred Church: A History of the Church of the East (Louvain, 2000).

It is hoped that further efforts will be made by the Church in order to engage the Chinese brethren and their search for the Church of their forefathers, the ‘Jingjiao’ Church of the East!

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