Recently, Fr. Dimitri posted in a forum the following response to attempt to clear up some confusion that had been taking place about the union that was just achieved under the guidance of H.G. Mar Bawai Soro. Fr. Dimitri is one of the priests who recently united into the Chaldean Catholic Church. He writes:
There seems to be more than a little confusion regarding the status of the parishes and their clergies who have supported His Lordship Mar Bawai. Permit me to try to clear up this confusion and set the record straight.
First, let us recall that Mar Bawai made several promises to us. He promised NOT to try to make us “Roman Catholics.” He promised NOT to start another Church. And he promised to seek unity with both churches of our Church of the East patrimony, the Chaldean Catholic and the Ancient Church of the East.
We should all acknowledge that he has kept these three promises. His Grace found it prudent to incorporate a diocese, the “Assyrian Catholic and Apostolic Diocese,” to serve his followers. This was not a “church,” but a legal covering.
Regarding seeking unity, while the Ancient Church of the East has shown great charity and openness towards Mar Bawai and his supporters, (which is appreciated on every level) her leadership was not interested in pursuing unity with the other apostolic Churches at this time. This did not fit the criteria His Grace had set for the Diocese in seeking unity.
The Chaldean Church however was just as helpful and the Diocese of St Peter (San Diego) invited our clergy to their clergy meetings, ordinations and special events. They attended our services as well. Discussions were held as to how we who followed Mar Bawai could unite with the Chaldeans and still retain our identities as parishes and communities. There were also concerns from some of our people regarding what changes we would HAVE to make if we united with the Chaldeans….which would make us CATHOLIC. These have nearly completely been laid to rest.
Please note that the Chaldeans are 100% Catholics – as much as the Pope, although they are not “Roman” Catholics. The term “Roman Catholic” is itself an improper one that started in Protestant usage. The Proper term is “Western Catholic Church” or “Latin Catholic Church.” There is only one Western Catholic Church, but there are 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, each a full church in its own right. Several churches use the same “rite” or practice. For instance, the Chaldeans and the Syro-Malabars both use the Chaldean or Mesopotamian rite we are used to. And there are 14 Catholic Churches that use the Byzantine rite!
All that said, what happened this weekend was that the members of the Assyrian Catholic and Apostolic Diocese, both clergy and parishes, that are located within the geographic boundaries of St Peter’s Diocese, were accepted into the Diocese of St Peter. It was a merger of part of our diocese, the Californian and Washington part, with the regional Chaldean diocese. This was done in reply to the requests made by our parishes and youth groups. We were “accepted” and “joined to” the Chaldean diocese, not converted to being “Catholic.”
Look at it this way; when we were members of the Assyrian Catholic Church of the East, Rome declared in 2001 that we had a certain, incomplete communion with the Catholic Church. Although it was incomplete, still under certain circumstances Chaldeans could receive communion from us and we from them. This issue of having a “full” or “complete” communion with Rome was something the Pope and Mar Dinkha, on behalf of their Churches, pledged themselves “to do everything possible to dispel the obstacles of the past which still prevent the attainment of full communion between our Churches, so that we can better respond to the Lord’s call for the unity of his own, a unity which has of course to be expressed visibly.”
Quite frankly, with our being accepted into the Chaldean Church we have done just that. Yes, we were “catholic” before, but in an incomplete way and now we have completed our catholicity. Now we are in full communion with 22 other Churches. Ironically, the largest church of our Mesopotamian tradition is not the Chaldean, but the Syro-Malabar of India! We have now attained full communion with over half of all Christians and one-sixth of the world’s population!
And lastly, rather than leaving our Church of the East traditions, consider that perhaps we are actually rediscovering them. Yes, we are reclaiming what was lost long ago. For instance, icons ….. most Assyrians have one or more at home, almost every house has an icon of St Mary. Ah, but never in a church? Why? Oh, that would be idolatry! Really? No other apostolic and orthodox Church would say that. Yet I’ve recently seen it on a Church of the East website. THE TRUTH IS we had icons in our churches! The Hhudra clearly says that before the consecration of the church, THE ICON WHICH IS ABOVE THE ALTAR is to be taken down, later to be placed back. What was this icon? It was an icon of Jesus in his humanity. What we saw at the altar of the new St Matthew church was the ancient and liturgically correct use of icons in our Church.
This is not some “Catholic” or “Chaldean” idea, this is the true tradition of the Church of the East. And here’s another regarding the Pope… “And as the patriarch has authority to do all he wishes in a fitting manner in such things as are beneath his authority, SO THE PATRIARCH OF ROME HAS AUTHORITY OVER ALL PATRIARCHS, like the blessed Peter over all the community, for he who is in Rome also keeps the office of Peter in all the church. He who transgresses against these things the ecumenical synod places under anathema.”
Now you may ask, “Who wrote this? Surely he was a Chaldean or some other Catholic!” No, my brothers and sisters. Long before there was a “Chaldean Church” there was Mar Odisho of Sauwa, the author of Marganitha. Those were his words from his Nomencanon. For him, there was the Church in the West and the Church in the East, divided by hostile kingdoms, united in belief, one apostolic catholic church. He was with us this Saturday, I’m sure.