Greetings to the International Academic Conference
“Synodality in the Syriac Orthodox and Church
of the East Traditions”


Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome
23 November 2022


Your Holiness,
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Your Graces,
dear Father Rector, dear Professors, dear students,


Last Saturday, Pope Francis, receiving Your Holiness, made reference to the symposium we are opening tonight. Let me quote the very words of the Holy Father: “Dear Brother, I know that in a few days you will deliver a talk on synodality in the Syriac tradition as part of the symposium “Listening to the East”, organized at the Angelicum, on the synodal experience of the various Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches”. Pope Francis then continued: “The journey of synodality undertaken by the Catholic Church is and must be ecumenical, just as the ecumenical journey is synodal. It is my hope that we can pursue, ever more fraternally and concretely, our own syn-odos, our ‘common journey’, by encountering one another, showing concern for one another, sharing our hopes and struggles and above all, as we have done this morning, our prayer and praise of the Lord”.

No better introduction can be made to our conference. Our Churches are engaged in a common journey. Indeed, journeying belongs to the very nature of the Church. As shown in the document on the various images of the Church in both the Syriac and Latin traditions adopted last Saturday by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, significant images of the Church evoke this “pilgrim Church”: The Church is the People of God marching through the desert; the Church is a flock following the good shepherd; the Church is a ship in voyage. All these images illustrate this syn/odos in which all Christians are engaged towards the blessed day when the unity between them will be restored.

On this journey, the Catholic Church is willing to listen to the synodal experience of the Syriac Traditions. I am sure that this conference, and in particular the opening lecture of Your Holiness, will contribute significantly to our reflection. On our common journey towards full communion, the Assyrian Church of the East has perhaps a unique vocation, as affirmed Pope Francis last Saturday, sharing a dream: “I dare even to express a dream”, he said, “that the separation with the beloved Assyrian Church of the East, the longest in the history of the Church, can also be, please God, the first to be resolved”.

Expressing my best wishes for this symposium, I would like to express once again my deep appreciation to its academic committee, to the Pro Oriente Foundation and the Institute for Ecumenical Studies. May the Lord abundantly bless all the participants! May our reflections of these days help us to continue our “walking together” towards full communion, accomplishing the will of the Lord.