Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East


Rome, November 22, 2019

A plenary session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East took place from 21–22 November 2019 at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. This fourth session continues the third phase of the dialogue which is considering the mystery of the Church as understood in bothtraditions. The Commission is co–chaired by His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon, and the Most Reverend Johan Bonny, Bishop of Antwerp.

On Thursday, 21 November 2019, the Most Reverend Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, welcomed the members of the Joint Commission to the annual meeting.

The Joint Commission continued its work on the third phase of the dialogue on issues of ecclesiology which had been approved in 2017. This phase is reflecting on the nature and mission of the Church, the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the constitution of the Church. The members of the Commission gratefully recalled the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Joint Commission concurrently with the Common Christological Declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV on 11 November 1994.

The members presented six papers on the images of the Church found in both traditions, each having developedcomplementary understandings of the mystery of the Church, including the Body of Christ, the Shepherd and his flock, the Mother, the Ark of salvation, the Bride and bridegroom, the gathering of faithful and the spiritual hospital. The dialogue offers the opportunity to learn of each other’s history, theology, canon law, liturgy and spirituality. While our patristic and theological patrimony is different, the biblical foundations are held in common, along with the priesthood and apostolic succession. The task of the third phase of the dialogue is one of understanding howto receive distinctive formulations on the mystery of the Church from each other.  

The members of the Joint Commission also informally received reports on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, which is increasingly difficult. The members prayed for their brothers and sisters in the cradle of Christianity and resolved to make the situation better known in their home dioceses.  

The members of the Commission joined Cardinal Kurt Koch and officials of the Pontifical Council at an Ecumenical Prayer commemorating the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification held at the Abbey of Sant’Anselmo. They were also graciously invited to dinner by the Benedictine community. The Commission will re-convene in Rome in November 2020.

The Assyrian delegation includes His Grace Mar AprimAthneil, Bishop of Syria, His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of California, His Grace Mar Yohannan Yoseph, Auxiliary Bishop ofIndia, Archdeacon William Toma and Corbishop George Toma. The Catholic delegation includes the Most Reverend Antoine Audo, SJ, Bishop of Aleppo for the Chaldeans, the Most ReverendFrancis Kalabat, Bishop of Saint Thomas for the Chaldeans, the Very Reverend Thomas A. Baima, Provost of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Professor Dr. Theresia Hainthaler, Honorary Professor of Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology, and the Reverend Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, Official of the Pontifical Council. Bishop Athneil, Bishop Kalabat and Archdeacon Toma were not able to attend. Also present for the sessions as an observer was the Reverend Father Jijimon Puthuveettilkalam, SJ, from the CollegioInternazionale del Gesù.

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