Church of East synod to discuss dialogue with Vatican

The Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East (COE), one of earliest Christian congregations which has adherents in many countries, including India, will be held in Chicago, US, from May 24 to discuss topics like resumption of dialogue with the Catholic Church.

Three prelates from India would attend the eight-day meet of 15 metropolitans of COE from different continents.

According to Mar Apream, Metropolitan of the church in India, besides himself bishops Mar Yuhannan and Mar Augin from the country would attend the synod.

The Assyrian Church, which flourished in West Asia and whose adherents scattered over different countries over the centuries, has now its headquarters in Chicago.

Aprem, who is also the church’s Patriarchal Delegate to India, told PTI here that the Synod would take up the key issue of resumption of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and ACOE.

The dialogue between the Vatican and the COE began in 1985 with a view to ironing out the theological and liturgical differences between the two churches and a common “Christological Declaration” was signed by the head of the Assyrian Church, Mar Dinkha IV and the late Pope John Paul II in 1994.

Mar Apream, who is the Co-chairman of the Dialogue Committee, said the schism in the Church occurred at the council of phesus (Greece) in 431 AD, about 1600 years ago, centring mainly on the vexed issue of Theotokos (Mother of God or Bearer of God) and Christokos (mother of Christ or Bearer of Christ).

The Anaphora (Liturgy) of the Assyrian Church was approved by the Catholic Church, especially by the Syro-Malabar Church and the Caldean catholic church, which was earlier opposed by a large sections of the Roman Catholic clergy on the ground that it ‘chaldeanisation’ of Catholic church.

Another area of difference between the two churches concerned the seven sacraments. The Vatican insists on acceptance of the seven sacraments like Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist,Penance, Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction), Holy Orders (Ordination of priests) and Matrimony, Aprem said.

But the COE recognised only five sacraments like ordination, Baptism, Oiling of Unction, Oblation (Eucharist) and Absolution (Penance), he said.

Present pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict, who headed the Congregation for Faith earlier, had shown keen interest in the ACOE- Vatican dialogue.

Aprem expressed the hope that prelates from other countries like Australia, Canada, USA, Iran, Iraq, Sweden and India would support resumption of the Theological dialogue.