One week ago today leaders of the Chaldean Catholic Church in California formally received into communion a bishop of the Assyrian Apostolic Church of the East, his clergy, and about 3,000 Assyrian Christians.
The Assyrian Church, centered in modern-day Iraq, dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. According to the California Catholic Daily, the church eventually embraced the teachings of Nestorius, the fifth-century Archbishop of Constantinople whose doctrines were condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, large numbers of Nestorian Assyrians came into union with Rome, forming the Chaldean Catholic Church. Today, the Chaldean Church is larger than the Assyrian Church.
Assyrian Bishop Mar Bawai presided over the western Assyrian diocese based in San Jose, California. According to the California Catholic Daily, he was disciplined by the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Apostolic Church for a November 2005 paper defending papal primacy. His paper, titled “The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion” argued for the necessity of papal primacy.
Suspended by the synod, he formed the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese with loyal clergy and faithful.
The California Catholic Daily reports that the new diocese began to draw closer to the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle, which is based in El Cajon. On January 17, 2008, clergy of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese adopted a “Declaration of Intention” at a meeting in Dublin, California. The declaration said they intended to “enter full communion with the Catholic Church” and “resume church unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church.”
On March 28, Chaldean and Assyrian clergy met at the Cathedral of St. Peter in San Diego, where they recited a Catholic profession of faith before the altar.
Six priests, over 30 deacons and subdeacons, and some 3,000 lay faithful joined Bishop Mar Bawai in entering full Catholic communion. The union was solemnized May 10-11 at St. Thomas Church in Turlock and at St. Matthew Church in Ceres.