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[Chaldean Patriarch suggests single unified patriarchate for Iraq]

Chaldean Patriarch gambles on re-establishing “Church of the East”


Louis Raphael suggests ditching the heads of the three ecclesial communities that derive from this ancient institution, so that they may enter into communion once again and deal with emergencies together

Gianni Valente
Rome
25 June 2015
http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/sako-41976/

He didn’t shout it about but the proposal made by Patriarch Louis Raphael, Primate of the Chaldean Church was still shocking: doing away with the three Patriarchates rooted in the ancient Church of the East - the first Church to bring Christianity to Persia, India and even faraway China – and unifying the three ecclesial communities, bringing them under the leadership of one single Patriarch.



This is a delicate moment for the three local ecclesial communities of Mesopotamia as their very existence is at risk in their own homeland. The Chaldean Church, which is the largest and tied to the Apostolic See in Rome, has been haemorrhaging faithful since the US-led western military invasions took place. It is losing faithful in Iraq and as such Christians risk extinction in areas where it has been present for thousands of years. For decades now, most of the faithful belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East have lived in flourishing diaspora communities spread across America, Europe and Oceania. This Church is going through a delicate transition phase: after Patriarch Mar Dikha IV’s death last 26 March, the election of a successor was put off until September, while the re-transferral of the Patriarchal See from Chicago – where the Patriarch migrated to as an “exile” in 1940 – to Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is at stake. Meanwhile, the minority Ancient Church of the East – created in 1964 as the result of a schism in the Assyrian Church of the East, currently headed by Patriarch Mar Addai II, who is resident in Baghdad – faces re-unification after a proposal presented by Assyrian bishops.



In light of these developments, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael published some “personal thoughts” on the Patriarchate’s website. He sketches out the early stages of an actual plan for the re-establishment of the Church of the East as a Patriarchal Church that is independent from a jurisdictional point of view but in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The full re-unification of the three Churches of Nestorian descent would help deal with the dangers that threaten the survival of local Christian communities across the Middle East, together, the Patriarch said in his proposal.



What the Chaldean Patriarch’s proposal means in practical terms, in the unconditional renunciation of the patriarchal title on his part as well as on the part of Patriarch Mar Addai. All bishops of the three Churches currently in existence should then meet in a joint Synod to elect a single Patriarch who would then choose three bishops from the three Churches “being merged” as his main coadjutors. The “ethnic” self-definitions that currently distinguish the Chaldean and Assyrian Churches would have to be set aside: the new Church would simply be called: Church of the East, a Church that is universal and open to all, without any “nationalist” reductionisms. A programmatic general Synod, open to the laity, would have to plan the concrete implementation of full hierarchical and structural unity between the different Churches.



As far as the central issue of communion with the Bishop of Rome is concerned, the Chaldean Patriarch reiterated that this communion is based on the sharing of a common faith and doctrine, confirmed also in the joint Christological declaration signed by John Paul II and Mar Dinkha in 1994. In this declaration, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church state that they profess the same faith in Christ and it recognises that the Christological controversies of the distant past were mostly down to misunderstandings. Rome is Prima Sedes – Patriarch Louis Raphael recalls, referring back to a shared ecclesiology between East and West for the entire first Christian millennium – and being in full communion with the Bishop of Rome does not involve a “dissolution” of one’s ecclesial identity but it helps protect “the unity of plurality”, maintaining a Church’s individual features on a liturgical, canonical, disciplinary and jurisdictional level, thereby also protecting the prerogatives of the Patriarch and the Synod.



Even as far back as September 2013, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I invited the Assyrian Patriarch of Mar Dinkha to begin a path of dialogue with the aim of restoring full ecclesial communion between the Chaldean Christian community and its Assyrian counterpart. At the start of October 2013, Mar Dinkha accepted, suggesting the creation of a “joint committee” as an instrument for dealing with the emergencies the two sister Churches had in common. Said Churches share the same liturgical, theological ad spiritual heritage.



There is a recent precedent to the Chaldean Patriarch’s initiative, which is evocative and important also in terms of its outcome: In the mid-1990s, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch had started a project for the full sacramental re-unification with the Greek orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, while at the same time maintaining full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. It was the elderly Melkite bishop Elias Zoghby who set all this in motion. He was known for his fervent pro-unity interventions during the Second Vatican Council. In February 1995 he wrote a two-point profession of faith testimony in which he confessed that he believed “in everything Eastern orthodoxy teaches” while at the same time being in communion “with the Bishop of Rome, within the limits attributed to the Bishop of Rome by the Holy Fathers of the East in the First Millenium and before the separation”. Just a few days later, this profession of the faith was signed by Georges Khodr, orthodox Metropolitan of Byblos: ““I consider this profession of faith of Kyr Elias Zoghby to fulfil the necessary and sufficient conditions to re-establish the unity of the Orthodox Churches with Rome,” Khodr wrote. On this basis, the plan to restore “Antiochian” unity between the two Churches was supported by almost all Melkite Greek bishops. Meanwhile, in September 1996, the Holy See urged caution. According to the Pope’s collaborators, Rome could take into considerations any “Antiochian” decisions only if these did not create conflict and tension within the Orthodox world. The aim was to avoid being accused of creating division between the Orthodox Churches, seeing as though the Church of Rome had begun a theological dialogue in order to improve relations with Orthodoxy as a whole. In the end, it was the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch who suspended the project during a Synod, stressing that the bilateral dialogue with their Melkite Greek “brothers and sisters” “could not be separated from the resumption of communion between the See of Rome and Orthodoxy as a whole”.



It is likely that the proposal put forward by the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I will come up against insurmountable obstacles, particularly within the Chaldean and Assyrian communities in diaspora, where the ethnic and national element has been nurtured and fomented, even by some representatives of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, as part of their identity. Nevertheless, the Chaldean Patriarch’s proposal is valuable in that it tries to overcome existing obstacles with a sense of goodwill, promoting – as Francis has done on more than one occasion – the experience of communion of the first Christian millennium as a model to be followed on the concrete path towards achieving full sacramental communion between sister Churches.

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May God bless this endeavour and bring it to full fruition!

Alex

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And here is the response from the Assyrian Church of the East. Since Mar Louis Raphael (Sako)'s proposal was merely 'personal thoughts', the Holy Synod of the Church of the East, too, responded with the 'personal reflection' of one of its bishops, Mar Awa (Royel).

http://news.assyrianchurch.org/2015...he-unity-of-the-church-of-the-east/12378

Just as in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the issue of ecclesiology and the role of the Bishop of Rome is at the forefront, followed closely by the issue of Latinization versus faithfulness to the ritual tradition of a particular Church.

Peace,
Alex

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Dear Alex,

What a beautiful name! (Which "St Alex" are you named for, may I ask?)

This response shouldn't come as any surprise, especially to the Chaldean Patriarch . . .

If anything, he got a real earful from the Catholicos of the Church of the East. However, having said that, isn't the vision of Christian unity as outlined by the Assyrian Catholicos the most acceptable one re: the Eastern Churches?

What the Assyrian Primate said could be said by the patriarchs of all the EO and OO Churches as well, namely: 1) Ecclesial unity is a desired goal to be prayed for and acted upon prudently; 2) Rome must divest itself of its claim to jurisdiction over any Church other than its own while it would be, as it was in the first millennium, "first among equals" defined primarily within a collegial/conciliar context; 3) Until such time, all Eastern Catholic Churches have the right and even an "obligation" to reunite with their Mother Eastern Churches since the "union with Rome" model has failed miserably in terms of preserving those Churches' original theological, spiritual and canonical traditions as a result of Roman impositions on them over the years; 4) It is only after the Particular Eastern Churches have established full communion among their own members, including those who separated from them to become members of other patriarchates, that the issue of inter-ecclesial communion can hope to be addressed.

Frankly, I can't see a problem with any of that - other than, of course, that Rome and the EC Churches will never buy into that model (even though they come close to articulating something very similar within ecumenical contexts . . .).

Alex

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I agree with much of what Mar Awa Royel (who btw, has 4 theology degrees, all from Catholic institutions - 1 from Loyola, 1 from Mundelein, and 2 from the Pontifical Institute including his DTS) has written, however, to where else can some of our Eastern Catholic Churches go but Rome? The Malankara Syrian Church in India is made up of 3 Orthodox fighting factions - 2 Canonical and 1 uncanonical. Which 'mother church' can we be united with and still be united to everyone else?

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Originally Posted by East-Syrian-rite Mar Thoma Catholic
And here is the response from the Assyrian Church of the East. Since Mar Louis Raphael (Sako)'s proposal was merely 'personal thoughts', the Holy Synod of the Church of the East, too, responded with the 'personal reflection' of one of its bishops, Mar Awa (Royel).

http://news.assyrianchurch.org/2015...he-unity-of-the-church-of-the-east/12378
Thank you, that's very good.

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[/i]
Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
2) Rome must divest itself of its claim to jurisdiction over any Church other than its own while it would be, as it was in the first millennium, "first among equals" defined primarily within a collegial/conciliar context;


Unlike many others, though, this statement not only seems to [i]expect
Rome to turn fully to its ancient role, but to be downright joyful about the prospect.

hawk

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Originally Posted by dochawk
[/i]
Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
2) Rome must divest itself of its claim to jurisdiction over any Church other than its own while it would be, as it was in the first millennium, "first among equals" defined primarily within a collegial/conciliar context;


Unlike many others, though, this statement not only seems to [i]expect
Rome to turn fully to its ancient role, but to be downright joyful about the prospect.

hawk
This wasn't addressed to me, but I'd like to take the opportunity to say that it is good to be clear on what it would take for the ACoE to enter into full communion with Rome ... specifically, agreement on the papacy.

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Dear hawk,

If you are saying that I am "downright joyful" about the prospect, you would be wrong.

I was simply trying to summarize what the Church of the East and also the EO and OO ecumenical commissions have been saying.

At the same time, the Eastern Catholic Churches have also engaged in their own struggle to be able to do what the Vatican II Council affirmed is their right - to govern themselves.

I believe in papal jurisdiction and not just a papal primacy of honour.

We UGCCers just affirm our Church's right to govern itself as a Patriarchate in communion with the See of Rome.

This is why EC Churches like the UGCC and the Melkites have a good deal to contribute to the ongoing debate between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.

However, neither seems to want to give our Churches much of a role in that debate.

Alex

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Indeed, monsieur.

In particular reading the mention, in the OP, about the Melkite proposal for dual communion with the Antiochian Orthodox, I had to lament that the Chaldean Patriarch did not make the same overture toward the ACoE ... because I can really imagine the ACoE accepting it. (And even if they didn't accept it, it might advance the conversation significantly.)

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Originally Posted by Peter J
In particular reading the mention, in the OP, about the Melkite proposal for dual communion with the Antiochian Orthodox, I had to lament that the Chaldean Patriarch did not make the same overture toward the ACoE ... because I can really imagine the ACoE accepting it. (And even if they didn't accept it, it might advance the conversation significantly.)

Quite right. In fact, after reading the response of the ACoE, I went back and glanced over an interview that Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael gave after his initial proposal -- found in Italian here: http://www.baghdadhope.blogspot.it/2015/06/proposta-choc-del-patriarca-caldeo.html . His reply to the question of how the two non-Catholic Churches of the East would deal with the authority of the Roman Pontiff includes the following sentence: 'It is obvious that [this proposal] is about a Catholic Church over which the Roman Pontiff would remain head -- this has to be clear -- but stronger and able to make the weight of its own traditions, liturgies, and practices heard, even to Rome' (my translation). When I read the part about the Pope continuing to be the head of any such unified Church of the East, I groaned internally; obviously neither the Assyrian Church of the East nor the Ancient Church of the East would go for such a proposal.

In retrospect, I think any talk of 'dual communion' was reading far too much into Mar Louis Raphael's proposal. (The original proposal can be found in Arabic here: http://saint-adday.com/permalink/7566.html -- and in someone's English translation here: http://www.baghdadhope.blogspot.it/2015/06/mar-louis-raphael-i-sakos-message-unity.html .)

Peace,
Alex

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Dual communion doesn't make sense, at least when it comes to differences of doctrine (as opposed to canonical disputes, as in the current spat between Antioch and Jerusalem). I think the Chaldaean patriarch was just being honest.

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Originally Posted by East-Syrian-rite Mar Thoma Catholic
His reply to the question of how the two non-Catholic Churches of the East would deal with the authority of the Roman Pontiff includes the following sentence: 'It is obvious that [this proposal] is about a Catholic Church ...

(emphasis added) Yes, he is certainly talking about the other two Churches becoming Catholic (ICWR). I note that the fourth paragraph of the OP also indicates this about the proposal ("... in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church").

Although I may not see 100% eye-to-eye with him, I agree with his decision to be up front about that.

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Originally Posted by SwanOfEndlessTales
Dual communion doesn't make sense, at least when it comes to differences of doctrine (as opposed to canonical disputes, as in the current spat between Antioch and Jerusalem). I think the Chaldaean patriarch was just being honest.
"Dual communion" is already the reality among laity on the ground, it's only the clergy that are barred from full concelebration, and even then something close does happen occasionally.


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