Friday, 9 November 2018



Your Holiness,
Dear Brothers,

“Peace and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 6:23). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I greet you and, through you, the members of the Holy Synod, the bishops, the clergy and all the faithful of the beloved Assyrian Church of the East.

Two years have passed since our first encounter, but in the meantime I had the joy of again meeting Your Holiness in Bari last 7 July, at the Day of Reflection and Prayer for Peace in the Middle East, which you too had so greatly desired. Indeed, we share the great suffering resulting from the tragic situation endured by so many of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who are victims of violence and frequently forced to leave the lands in which they have always lived. They tread the via crucis in the footsteps of Christ and, though belonging to different communities, they are forging fraternal relationships among one another and thus becoming, for us, witnesses of unity. Shortly we shall join in prayer for an end to all this suffering and implore from the Lord the gift of peace for the Middle East, above all for Iraq and Syria.

We share a particular reason for thanksgiving to God: the Joint Committee for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Just one year ago, I had the joy of receiving its members on the occasion of the signing of the Common Statement on ‘Sacramental Life’. The Committee, itself the fruit of dialogue, shows that practical and disciplinary differences are not always an obstacle to unity, and that certain differences in theological expression can be considered complementary rather than conflicting. I pray that the work of the Committee, which in these days enters a third phase of study on ecclesiology, will help us to take one more step on our journey towards the much-desired goal of being able to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Lord at the same altar.

This journey propels us forward, yet it also demands that we continue to preserve our historical memory, in order to draw inspiration from the witnesses of the past. This year the Assyrian Church of the East, together with the Chaldean Church, celebrates the seven-hundredth anniversary of the death of Abdisho bar Berika, Metropolitan of Nisibis, one of the most famous authors of the Syro-Oriental tradition. His works, particularly in the area of canon law, are still fundamental texts of your Church. I rejoice that Your Holiness and the distinguished Members of your Delegation are taking part in the international colloquium organized on this occasion by the Pontifical Oriental Institute. May the study of this great theologian help to make better known the richness of the Syriac tradition and to receive it as a gift for the entire Church.

Your Holiness, dear brother, with affection I wish to express my gratitude for your visit and for the gift of being able to pray together for one another today, making our own the prayer of the Lord: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).


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