Rome, 22–24 November 2023


The fifteenth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East took place from 22–24 November 2023 in Rome at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (DPCU). It was the fifth session of the third phase, on ecclesiology, started in 2017. In line with this general theme, this year’s plenary meeting was dedicated to the topic: “Liturgy in the life of the Church: A comparative study of the Latin and Church of the East’s liturgical traditions”. 

On Wednesday, 22 November, His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, Prefect of the DPCU, welcomed all the members of the Commission. He shared his fond memories of the last session of the dialogue, which concluded with the adoption of a new document, entitled "The Images of the Church in the Syriac and Latin Patristic Traditions", and coincided with the first visit to Rome of His Holiness Mar Awa III, as the new Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. The Cardinal particularly welcomed the new members, Reverend Father Željko Paša, SJ, and Reverend Father Jijimon Puthuveettilkalam, SJ, and expressed his best wishes for this new phase of the dialogue, stating that: “the liturgy is an essential ‘locus theologicus’ in the life of our Churches, a privileged area for mutual exchange of gifts, and therefore an ecumenical field par excellence”.

The members presented four papers on: “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council”, with a special focus on “The impact of liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council on the Chaldean Church today (Syria)”, by Bishop Antoine Audo, SJ; “The historical development of the liturgical seasons in the Church of the East”, by Archdeacon William Toma; “Feasts of Saint Mary in the Church of the East”, by Corbishop George Toma; “Feasts of Saint Mary in the Latin Church”, by Professor Theresia Hainthaler. 

The Assyrian delegation included His Beatitude Mar Awgin Kuriakose, Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of India and Southern Gulf; His Grace Mar Paulus Benjamin, Bishop of Chicago and Eastern USA; His Grace Mar Abris Youkhanna, Bishop of Duhok and Nineveh, Patriarchal Auxiliary; Archdeacon William Toma, Under-Secretary of the Synod (Co-Secretary); and Corbishop George Toma.

The Catholic delegation included the Most Reverend Antoine Audo, SJ, Bishop of Aleppo for the Chaldeans; Most Reverend Francis Kalabat, Bishop of Saint Thomas for the Chaldeans, USA; Professor Dr. Theresia Hainthaler, Honorary Professor of Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology, Frankfurt; Reverend Father Željko Paša, SJ, Dean of Faculty of Eastern Christian Studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute; Reverend Father Jijimon Puthuveettilkalam, SJ, from Campion Hall, Oxford University; and the Reverend Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, Official of the DPCU (Co-Secretary).

In the absence of His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia and Most Reverend Johan Bonny, His Beatitude Mar Awgin Kuriakose and Reverend Father Hyacinthe Destivelle acted as Co-Chairs for this plenary session. 

This study and discussion will continue at the next meeting, which will take place in Rome, from 6-8 November 2024. This sixteenth meeting will mark the 30th anniversary of the Common Christological Declaration and of the establishment of this Commission, on 11 November 1994.