His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East has advised caution of being distant from Christ while reigniting pride for the ancient Church, during a four-day visit to the city of Melbourne.
Accompanying His Holiness on his sojourn were His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon and His Grace Mar Emmanuel Joseph, Bishop of Canada.
His Holiness was the guest of honour at the ‘Assyrian Youth Meet’ function held on 25 September at Ishtar Reception Center. The event brought together young Assyrians in Melbourne who are active in various ministries of the church, including the church choir, youth association and the long-running St. George Assyrian Language School, which presently caters to more than 120 students. The ‘Youth Meet’ was organised and presented entirely by the youth of the church.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM commenced the formal addresses at the function by reflecting on the challenges faced by the church in drawing and keeping young faithful within its fold.
“The church”, said His Beatitude, “attempts to gather [young faithful] on the foundation of Christian faith and Christian morality; that they [young faithful] can be close as a community to both their church and nation.”
He continued, “Today, young people are drawn to social activities rather than spiritual ones but this does not mean though that they do not have love for spirituality or to be close to God.”
His Beatitude stressed that every parish’s youth association plays a vital role in the life of the church, noting that after the establishment of a parish, the next group to be instituted is the youth association.
During his patriarchal address to the assembled youth, His Holiness gave an overview of the history of the Assyrian Church of the East and touched in particular on the history of the early church including the importance of understanding that the term ‘Nestorian’, which is still used in western texts, is a damaging misnomer, applied to the church misguidedly.
“We should have pride in being the sons and daughters of an Apostolic church whose missionaries reached as far as India, Afghanistan, China and Siberia amongst other distant regions and whose faithful once numbered more than 80 million adherents,” said His Holiness.
His Holiness also cautioned the young faithful to be cautious of new-age movements and religious groups that reject the apostolicity, doctrines, sacraments and canons of the Holy Church.
“The Church of the East is not built on the dollar, on money, it is built on faith. We desire our people to be faithful members of the church. We have often said that we would much rather our churches be filled with faithful on Sundays, than the church having vast wealth. You the faithful are the treasury and wealth of the church,” said the Catholicos Patriarch.
In closing the blessed occasion, all youth in attendance were given an opportunity to personally receive the blessings of the Catholicos Patriarch.
On Sunday 26 September, the Eucharistic Liturgy according to the ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari was consecrated by His Holiness at Ishtar Reception Center due to the small size of the existing St. George Church in Reservoir. More than 800 faithful of the church gathered to receive the precious body and blood of Christ our Lord from the blessed hands of His Holiness.
In the evening, a dinner was held in honour of His Holiness at Ishtar Reception Center. The capacity attendance enjoyed a program of hymns and folkloric performances and had the valuable opportunity to hear the fatherly wisdom and guidance imparted by His Holiness.
During his patriarchal address, His Holiness gave an overview of the present position of the church today and enhanced attempts to establish parishes and provide pastoral care to faithful both in the Middle East and in the diaspora. This includes addressing the humanitarian needs of Assyrian refugees in Syria and Lebanon and the requirement for ongoing support of embattled faithful suffering the burdens of persecution in Iraq.
Within the latter context, His Holiness spoke passionately about the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq and noted that as the indigenous people of the country, they should be afforded all civil, religious, linguistic, cultural and political rights.
While affirming the policy of the Assyrian Church of the East to remain outside political affairs, His Holiness expressed his desire to see all Assyrian political groups in Iraq work closer together for the benefit of the Assyrian Nation and the establishment of an administrative region in which Assyrians and other minorities may govern and protect themselves from any form of violence or persecution.
Throughout the visit, His Holiness took time in an inordinately busy schedule to personally meet with sons and daughters of the Holy Church in Melbourne.
His Holiness invoked the blessings of Almighty God on the faithful and expressed his desire to return to Melbourne after the construction of St. Odisho Church, which upon completion in the near future shall be the second parish of the Assyrian Church of the East in Melbourne.[nggallery id=282]