Erbil (Agenzia Fides) - Mar Awa Royel, currently Bishop of the Assyrian diocese of California (USA) and Secretary of the Holy Synod is the 122nd Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. He was elected on Wednesday, September 8th by the 15 Bishops of the Assyrian Church of the East, who gathered on Monday, September 6th in the elective Synod convened in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil, to elect the successor of Patriarch Mar Gewargis III, who had already announced in February 2020 his resignation from the patriarchal office for health reasons (see Fides, 7/9/2021).
Born 46 years ago in Chicago, and therefore the son of the Assyrian diaspora in the USA, David Royel was ordained a deacon as early as 17, and later earned degrees in sacred theology from Loyola University in Chicago (founded in 1870 by the Jesuits) and at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, also known as "Mundelein Seminary", a historic institute in charge of the theological and spiritual formation of Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Subsequently he obtained a licentiate in Sacred Theology and a doctorate from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He was ordained bishop by the then Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV in 2008, taking the name of Awa (which means "father" in the Assyrian language) and became the first bishop of the Assyrian Church born in the US.
His ecumenical openness and direct involvement in fraternal relations with the Catholic Church are well known, which he also took care of his capacity as President of the Commission for inter-ecclesial relations of the Assyrian Church of the East. Among his academic contributions there is the work "Mysteries of the Kingdom: The Sacraments of the Assirian Church of the East" (2011), a treatise on the theology of the Assyrian Church of the East concerning the seven sacraments, a text that is also relevant in view of the future, possible developments of the theological dialogue in progress between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. The ancient Eastern Church has never had direct dogmatic conflicts with the Bishop of Rome. The official theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East started in 1984, and led to the common Christological declaration of 1994, which confessed the faith in Christ shared between Catholics and Assyrians. Now, this fraternal theological dialogue is continuing on the theme of the sacraments and the sacramental life of the Church. Since 2001, the Assyrian Church of the East has authorized experiences of Eucharistic hospitality with the Chaldean Church, in pastoral situations that require it. A future joint document between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East could officially attest to the mutual recognition of the validity of the sacraments celebrated and administered in the two Churches. The theology and spirituality of the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches strongly emphasize the human nature of Christ. This spiritual perspective could not be more valued as a fruitful way for the Christian proclamation in the present time.
The path of fraternal dialogue between the Catholic Church and the ancient Eastern Churches is always kept on the horizon of a possible restoration of full sacramental communion. A hope that pushes us to face and shorten theological and doctrinal distances, and also nourishes the common concern for the Middle Eastern Christian communities and their sufferings, in the lands where the Apostles preached. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/9/2021)