His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East died on Thursday morning, March 26 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Patriarch Mar Dinkha was 80 years old and the cause of death was a virus infection and pneumonia. The funeral service will be held on April 8 at St George Church in Chicago.
Patriarch Dinkha, the 111th Patriarch of the Church of the East, was consecrated as Patriarch on October 17, 1976, serving 39 years at his post. His tenure was the tenth longest in church history. Patriarch Dinkha was born in Iraq on September 15, 1935. He was appointed to the ministry in Urmia, Iran. He was consecrated as bishop on February 11, 1962. He became patriarch after Patriarch Eshai Shimun was assassinated in 1976.
Patriarch Dinkha is credited with rebuilding the church, which had neared the brink of destruction after the assassination of his predecessor, and brought stability and peace to a church in turmoil.
After seven centuries, Mar Dinkha IV was the first Patriarch chosen by election and not by succession. Since his election, Patriarch Mar Dinkha transferred the patriarchal seat from the mountains foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan to Chicago.
Now the main part of the Assyrian Church is concentrated in communities in diaspora scattered in America, Europe and Oceania. Patriarch Mar Dinkha, during his long patriarchal tenure, met Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. The meeting with the current Pope took place on October 2 last year.
On 11 November 1994 Patriarch Mar Dinkha and Pope John Paul II signed the Joint Declaration on Christology, where it is recognized that the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church confess the same faith in Christ, and admit that Christological disputes of the distant past were largely due to misunderstandings. In the past there was no mutual excommunication between the two Churches, and there has been for some time a bilateral theological dialogue that will also have to face the theme of the constitution and the nature of the Church.
Upon learning of the death of the Patriarch, Pope Francis sent the following telegram:
To His Beatitude Mar Aprem Locum Tenens of the Assyrian Church of the East
Having learned with sadness of the death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to Your Beatitude, to the Bishops, clergy and all the faithful and to assure you of the spiritual closeness of all Catholics at this time.
The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times. His Holiness Mar Dinkha suffered greatly because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and in Syria, resolutely calling attention to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities suffering daily persecution.
I recall how we spoke of this at length during the recent visit of His Holiness to Rome. I give heartfelt thanks to Almighty God for the enduring commitment of His Holiness to improving relations among Christians and in particular between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. May the Lord receive him into his kingdom and grant him eternal rest, and may the memory of his long and devoted service to the Church live on as a challenge and inspiration to us all.
FRANCISCUS PP. on the ministry the Bishop of Rome.
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