Pope Francis' Address to Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East

«What unites us is already much more than what divides us»

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On Thursday, Pope Francis received in audience His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, accompanied by a Delegation. Here is a translation of the Pope‘s address .

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Holiness, Beloved Brothers in Christ,

It is for me a moment of grace and of real joy to be able to receive you here, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter.  I give Your Holiness my affectionate welcome and thank you for the courteous words you addressed to me also on behalf of the different members of your Delegation.  Through you, my thoughts of greeting in the Lord go to the Bishops, the clergy and the faithful of the Assyrian Church of the East. I pray, with the words of the Apostle Paul, that “the peace of God, which exceeds every intelligence, may keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (cf. Philippians 4:7).

Our meeting is marked by the suffering we share, given the wars that several regions of the Middle East are experiencing, and, in particular, because of the violence that is striking Christians and members of other minority religions, especially in Iraq and Syria. How many of our brothers and sisters are suffering a daily persecution! When we think of their suffering, it comes spontaneously to us to go beyond the distinctions of rite or of confession: in them is the body of Christ that, again today, is wounded, beaten, humiliated. There are no religious, political or economic reasons that can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We feel profoundly united in the prayer of intercession and in the action of charity to these members of the body of Christ that are suffering.

Holiness, your visit is a further step on the path of a growing closeness and spiritual communion between us, after the bitter misunderstandings of past centuries. Already 20 years ago, the Joint Christological Declaration signed by you and by my predecessor, Pope Saint John Paul II, constituted a milestone in our path to full communion. With it we recognized the confession of the one faith of the Apostles, faith in the divinity and the humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, united in one Person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. To use the words of that historic document, “united we confess the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we, through His grace, may become children of God.” I wish to assure you my personal commitment to continue to follow this path, deepening further the relations of friendship and communion that exist between the Church of Rome and the Assyrian Church of the East.

I support with prayer the work of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, so that, thanks to it, the blessed day grows closer in which we will be able to celebrate at the same altar the sacrifice of praise, which will render us one in Christ. In awaiting that day, we will walk together in the presence of the Lord, as did our Father Abraham in his pilgrimage of faith to the Promised Land, aware that, even if the end seems distant and we can enjoy it only in hope, it is nevertheless the gift promised by the Lord and, therefore, will not fail to manifest itself. What unites us is already much more than what divides us; therefore, we feel driven by the Spirit to exchange henceforth the spiritual treasures of our ecclesial traditions, to live as true brothers, sharing the gifts that the Lord does not cease to give our Churches, as sign of his goodness and mercy.

Holiness, I thank you for your visit and I invoke upon you, upon the clergy and the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, through the intercession of the All Holy Mother of God, an abundance of divine blessings.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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