(CWN) - The leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church has written to his counterpart in the Assyrian Church of the East, proposing that they bring their churches into full communion.
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako sent a birthday greeting to the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, and suggested that the two Eastern churches should “begin dialogue for unity, which is the desire of Jesus.” Full union with the Chaldean Church would also bring the Assyrian Church into union with the Holy See, he noted.
“The beginning of this dialogue is urgent today, in the face of great challenges that threaten our survival,” Patriarch Sako wrote, alluding to the uncertain prospects facing the Christian minority in Iraq. “Without unity, there is no future for us,” he said.
The Assyrian Church broke away from Rome in the 5th century, with the Assyrian Church showing sympathy for the Nestorian teachings that were condemned by the Council of Ephesus. However, leaders of the Assyrian Church have distanced themselves from the Nestorian doctrine, and in 1994 a Common Christological Declaration, signed by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Mark Dinkha IV, seemed to resolve doctrinal differences.
The Chaldean Church, which was restored to unity with the Holy See in 1552, shares historical roots with the Assyrian Church, and the faithful of each body share the sacraments. But there is no formal agreement between the two churches.
“If we have recognized confessing the same faith, at this point I am wondering what the obstacles to walk together toward the recognition of full unity among us are,” Patriarch Sako remarked to the Fides news service. The Catholic prelate said that he would “await with trepidation” a reply from the Assyrian prelate.