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Consultative Dialogue in Chicago

An informal consultation between representatives of the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East took place near Chicago, Illinois, USA, on June 13 and 14, 2008.  This was a follow-up meeting one year after the visit of His Holiness Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.  The meeting was hosted by the Assyrian Church of the East at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.

The representatives of the Assyrian Church of the East were Reverend Cor-bishop George Toma, of St Andrew parish in Des Plaines, Illinois, Reverend Cor-bishop David Royel of Mar Yosip parish in San Jose, California, and Reverend Father William Toma of St. Mary’s parish in Roselle, Illinois.  The Catholic representatives were Monsignor Johan Bonny from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Reverend Father Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, from the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Reverend Father Thomas Baima, of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminar. The Assyrian representatives were designated by Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, and the Catholic representatives by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

During the course of the meeting, the representatives exchanged information about recent events in their churches. They focused in particular on the difficulties that have developed in relations between the Assyrian and Chaldean churches on the West Coast of the United States. Consideration was also given to the past activities of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, and the future course of the dialogue. Various ways in which Catholics and Assyrians can work together in areas where both communities exist were also considered, such as the training of clergy, the production of common catechetical material, and other joint projects. Ample attention was also given to the desperate situation of Assyrians and other Christians in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, and ways in which our churches can work together to support them.

Ideas and proposals concerning these issues were formulated and will be brought to the attention of the competent Church authorities for appropriate decisions. The members were grateful for the opportunity to reflect together on the present situation, and left the meeting hopeful that  the Churches will continue to find appropriate ways to grow in the unity that Christ wills.

On Sunday morning June 15, the members of the consultation attended a Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) presided over by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at St. Mary’s Church in Roselle, Illinois.  The members were received by the Patriarch at breakfast after the liturgy.  A message of greeting from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, was presented to the Patriarch.

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