Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - The Ancient Church of the East has a new Patriarch: Mar Yakoob Danil, currently Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand. The Synod of Bishops of the Ancient Church of the East, convened to elect the successor of the Patriarch Mar Addai II - who died on 11 February at the age of 74 - took place from May 30 to June 1 at the church of St, Odisho (Chicago, Illinois). The new Patriarch will take the name of Mar Yacoob III. The patriarchal consecration liturgy will take place at the Cathedral of St. Mary, in Baghdad, on August 19, the day on which the Ancient Church of the East celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Ancient Church of the East is a small but not insignificant ecclesial group of Eastern Syrian tradition that has about 70,000 baptized and has its roots in primitive Christianity, having been born from a split within the Assyrian Church of the East. With the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, the Church hitherto led by Mar Addai II draws on the heritage of the first ancient Church of the East, the one that brought Christianity to Persia, India and China.
The schism that led to the formation of the Ancient Church of the East (see Fides, 15/2/2022) occurred in 1964, in reaction to certain liturgical reforms introduced by Patriarch Shimun XXII, then head of the Assyrian Church of the East. At that time, Patriarch Shimun was living in exile in the United States, having been expelled from Iraq in 1933. His decision to shorten the Lenten fast and adopt the Gregorian calendar for the celebration of major liturgical solemnities provoked a backlash in Iraq from church sectors that had long challenged the then practice of hereditary patriarchal succession (that the office of patriarch was transmitted from uncle to nephew), and who opposed further "innovations" imposed from abroad, in spite of the centuries-old practice in force in the lands of his original roots. The part of the clergy that came into conflict with Patriarch Shimun XXII came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Thoma Darmo, who was consecrated Patriarch in 1969, established his headquarters in Baghdad and began to lead the new ecclesial structure, called the Ancient Church of the East. After the death of Thoma Darmo, in 1970 Mar Addai II was elected Patriarch as his successor, who held the Patriarchal See of Baghdad until his death.
The personal story of the new elected Patriarch Mar Yakoob III is itself marked by the travails of the schism between the two Churches: until 1985, Yacoob Danil was in fact Metropolitan of Kirkuk (Iraq) of the Assyrian Church of the East. In that year, his passage to the Ancient Church of the East took place, in which he held the roles of Bishop in Syria in the following years and then of Metropolitan in Australia and New Zealand.
The election of the new Patriarch Mar Yakoob III took place immediately after the substantial failure of yet another attempt to try to heal the schism between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East. On May 9, at the church of St. Odisho in Chicago (the same where the synod that elected Mar Yacoob Patriarch was held), the talks between Bishops of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East began, with the task of recomposing the unity between the two ancient ecclesial groups that separated in 1967.
Several working sessions between the two delegations took place during the month of May, without reaching concrete results. According to various sources, an agreement was not reached during the meetings on some controversial points to be resolved in order to favor full reunification between the two ecclesial groups. Among other things, as reported by the BaghdadHope website, the delegations did not find a compromise on the definition of a common liturgical calendar and on issues relating to the composition of the respective hierarchies in a single episcopal body. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 7/6/2022)