On Wednesday 8 September the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East gathered in Saint John the Baptist Church in Erbil and elected Bishop Mar Awa Royel as new Catholicos Patriarch. His Holiness Mar Awa had previously served as the Bishop presiding over the Diocese of California of the Assyrian Church of the East, and also as the Secretary of the Holy Synod. His Holiness has been to date a member of the International Dialogue Commission between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
After graduate studies in the United States, His Holiness Mar Awa received his licentiate (2001) and doctorate in sacred theology (2007) at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, where he was enrolled as a scholarship holder of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council, who will represent His Holiness Pope Francis at the enthronement of the new Catholicos Patriarch in Erbil on 13 September, expressed in a letter his joy on learning of the election.
A milestone in relations between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church was the Common Christological Declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV in 1994, opening new horizons for both theological dialogue and pastoral collaboration. The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the two Churches was also inaugurated in the same year. The second phase of its work concluded in 2017 with the publication of the “Common Statement on Sacramental Life”. In 2018 Pope Francis and Mar Gewargis II signed a Common Statement on Christians in the Middle East. The fourth and current phase of the dialogue is focusing on the themes of ecclesiology, and of church imagery in the Syriac and Latin patristic traditions.
Photo: Pope Francis with Mar Gewargis III and Mar Awa Royel © Servizio Fotografico | Vatican Media