|Ancient Church of the East|
|Catholicos-Patriarch||Mar Addai II|
|Region||Iraq, Syria, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and previously in India|
|Liturgy||East Syriac Rite|
|Separated from||Assyrian Church of the East|
|Members||70,000 in 1968|
The Ancient Church of the East (Syriac: ? dt? ?Attiqt? ?Ma?n; Arabic: ?, Kan?sat al-Ma?riq al-Qad?ma), officially the Ancient Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East, is an Eastern Christian denomination, of the East Syriac Rite. It branched from the Assyrian Church of the East in 1964, under the leadership of Mar Thoma Darmo (d. 1969). It is one of several Assyrian Churches that claim continuity with the historical Church of the East - the ancient Patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, one of the oldest Christian Churches in the Near East. The Church is headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq. Since 1970, it is headed by Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Addai II.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the Church of the East was under patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, who had been exiled from Iraq in 1933 and forced to relocate to the United States in 1940. Around 1962, the church hierarchy consisted of two metropolitans and four bishops, all based in the Middle East and Asia, along with the patriarch who resided in the United States.
Mar Thoma Darmo, was the metropolitan of the archdiocese of India which is known as Chaldean Syrian Church in India from the time of his ordination in 1952 by patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII. An article posted in the United Kingdom in 1955 regarding hereditary succession caught the attention of Mar Thoma Darmo in 1960, and as a response, he published a book speaking against the practice of hereditary succession as un-canonical. Hereditary succession, although un-canonical and forbidden in the synodal canons of the Church of the East, was in effect in the Church of the East since the 15th century. Mar Thoma Darmo's attitude regarding hereditary succession frustrated the Patriarch, and the relations between the two broke down. Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII visited the diocese in India during 1961-62, but the situation only deteriorated when after his visit concluded, Shimun XXI Eshai appointed an advisory board which consisted of members hostile to the metropolitan. The decision was not enacted, and a decree in 1963 appointing Rev. Anthony Chackola, a local priest, as the administrator of the diocese also did not materialise. Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII ordered Mar Thoma Darmo to appear before the patriarch in San Francisco, California, who was not able to due to the fact that Mar Thoma Darmo had renounced his original Syrian citizenship in order to obtain Indian citizenship. The patriarch, in mind of the previous developments, viewed this an act of continued disobedience on part of Mar Thoma Darmo and suspended him in January 1964. The majority of the clergy and faithful of the Chaldean Syrian Church ignored the suspension order and continued to adhere to Mar Thoma Darmo, and they were known as the 'Metropolitan Group.' A smaller faction obeyed the patriarchal decree, and were known as the 'Patriarchal Group,' under Rev. Anthony Chackola, who acted as the patriarchal administrator.
In early 1964, metropolitan Mar Yosip Khnanisho visited the United States for surgical treatment and met with Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII in San Francisco, California. As the patriarch was unable to visit his prelates based in the Middle East, the two were able to discuss church related matters in person. It was agreed to adopt the Gregorian calendar in its entirety. The decision was enacted in the patriarchal epistle dated for Easter 1964, to take effect for Advent later that year. A number of clergy and faithful in Iraq and Syria disapproved of the decision and looked for other means. As the decree was enacted after the suspension of Mar Thoma Darmo in January 1964, it had no effect on the 'Metropolitan Group' in India, and they continued to use the Julian calendar.
The situation only worsened, and by 1965, the Old Calendarists in Iraq placed themselves under the leadership of Rev. Isaac Enwia, a priest based in Baghdad. In Khabour, Syria several priests continued to use the Julian calendar. Several prominent laity also supported the efforts of the Old Calendarists to organise themselves, and by 1967, plans were made to bring Mar Thoma Darmo to Iraq in order to organise the Old Calendarists in Iraq and Syria. At that point, the relationship between the patriarch and metropolitan was beyond reconciliation.
Mar Thoma Darmo arrived in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968 upon invitation from the Iraqi government. The churches of the Assyrian Church of the East were handed over to Mar Thoma Darmo and the Old Calendarists. Mar Thoma Darmo began to organise the church and ordained a number of clergy to the different ranks within the church. In September 1968, Mar Thoma Darmo ordained Poulose Mar Poulose to the rank of bishop, who departed to the United States after his ordination in order to complete post-graduate and doctoral studies, only returning to India after the completion of his studies in 1976. After this ordination, Mar Thoma Darmo ordained Mar Aprem Mooken to the rank of bishop and later as metropolitan, and also ordained Mar Addai II to the rank of metropolitan. These two metropolitans in turn consecrated Mar Thoma Darmo Catholicos-Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East on October 11, 1968.
After his consecration, Mar Thoma Darmo slowly began to organise the affairs of the Ancient Church of the East. He had planned to visit congregations in Syria and in the United States, and prior to his hospitalization in 1969, the plans to his visit to Syria were almost complete. Mar Thoma Darmo died in September 1969. Mar Addai II, then metropolitan, began to act as Locum Tenens.
Following Patriarch Mar Thoma Darmo's death in 1969, Mar Addai II assumed the position of acting patriarch, and was later elected to lead the Ancient Church of the East in February 1970. In the meantime, he consecrated two Metropolitans, both in December 1969: Mar Narsai Toma was consecrated as Metropolitan of Kirkuk, and Mar Toma Eramia was consecrated Metropolitan of Nineveh (Mosul) and Northern Iraq. Mar Addai's official jurisdiction at the time was Baghdad.
After a vacancy of almost three years, together, on February 20, 1972, Mar Narsai and Mar Toma consecrated Mar Addai II as Catholicos-Patriarch.
In 1985, Mar Daniel Jacobs, previously Bishop of Kirkuk of the Assyrian Church of the East who was residing under the care of his family in Modesto, California was received into communion in the Ancient Church of the East. Mar Daniel Jacobs had fallen ill some time after his ordination in 1973, and as a result was an invalid for most part of his tenure in the Assyrian Church of the East. Within the Ancient Church of the East, his position was solely of a ceremonial nature out of respect for his rank and file. As he resided in Modesto, California, he was mainly styled as bishop of California, despite the fact that he was not able to lead a parish or diocese due to his illness.
In July 1992, Mar Yacob Daniel was consecrated Bishop of Syria. The following year, in June 1993, Mar Emmanuel Elia was ordained as a patriarchal auxiliary. In 1994, Mar Emmanuel Elia came to the United States in order to pursue post-graduate studies in theology. After his graduation in 1997, he shifted his residence and became Bishop of North America and Canada.
In November 1995, Mar Aprem Mooken, Poulose Mar Poulose and the entire archdiocese of India were received into communion in the Assyrian Church of the East for external reasons related to their diocese solely.
Mar Addai II visited Europe in 1996 to inspect on the church in that continent and during his visit he confirmed and appointed Timothaus Mar Shallita as metropolitan of the Ancient Church of the East for Europe. Timothaus Mar Shallita was originally a candidate for the hereditary diocese of Barwari Bala, Nerwa and Sapna which was under the Mar Yawalaha episcopal dynasty for centuries. He had been ordained to the rank of deacon in 1954 by metropolitan, Mar Yosip Khnanisho. In 1957, he was passed in favour of his distant cousin, Andraos Yawalaha, who Mar Yosip Khnanisho had ordained as bishop. This decision angered Shallita and his family, and with the help of prominent laity, succeeded in receiving ordination as metropolitan by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Jacob III in 1958. Initially, he refrained from joining the Syriac Orthodox Church and returned to his village where he expected to be received in full rank and dignity as a rival to his distant cousin, but in reality only a small number recognised him. The Iraqi-Kurdish war resulted in his departure to Baghdad, Iraq in 1962 where he was received in the care of the Syriac Orthodox Church and later relocated to the patriarchate in Damascus, Syria in 1963, remaining under the care of the Syriac Orthodox Church until his relocation to Germany in 1967. Mar Addai II, while receiving medical treatment in Germany in 1975, had met with Timothaus Mar Shallita, but nothing resulted from this meeting. From his arrival in Germany until his acceptance in the Ancient Church of the East, Timothaus Mar Shallita used a number of self-designations, with no adherents.
In April 2009, Mar Addai II consecrated two bishops, Mar Zaia Khoshaba and Mar Aprem Daweed. The former was appointed as a patriarchal auxiliary based in Baghdad, Iraq, while the latter was appointed as bishop of the diocese of Dohuk, Iraq and his see was based in the village of Sharafiya. Mar Aprem Daweed resigned in November 2009.
In August 2011, Mar Yacoub Daniel and Mar Zaia Khoshaba consecrated Mar Mari Emmanuel as a suffragan bishop for the archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand, assisting the Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand.
In June 2014, Mar Addai II consecrated Mar Gewargis Younan as Bishop of Chicago, the youngest-serving prelate of the Ancient Church of the East. That same month, Mar Zaia Khoshaba was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan and assigned to the archdiocese of Canada and the United States, with his see in Toronto, Canada.
The Ancient Church of the East recognizes the following nine positions in its hierarchy:
The Patriarch is the supreme head of the church, and oversees all dioceses of the church. The church has an episcopal polity, meaning it is organized into dioceses, each headed by a bishop. Dioceses are organized into Ecclesiastical provinces under the authority of a Metropolitan. Each diocese is made up of several parish communities. The individual parishes are staffed by at least one priest. Priests are assisted by Deacons, Subdeacons, and Readers. All members of the clergy may preach, baptize, witness marriages, and conduct funeral liturgies, though Deacons, Subdeacons, and Readers assume an assistant's role. Only those ranking above a deacon can celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist, though others may be ministers of Holy Communion. Administering the sacrament of holy orders (ordaining someone into the clergy) is limited to bishops, metropolitans, and the Patriarch.
The Archdiocese of Syria was largely centred on the Khabour region in Syria, and it has witnessed a mass exodus of its local population since the ISIS invasion and destruction caused by them in 2015.
In 1964, during the reign of Shem?on XXI Eshai (also known as Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII), a schism occurred in the Church of the East causing the establishment of a separate Ancient Church of the East with its center in Baghdad. The Ancient Church of the East acknowledges the traditional lineage of the Patriarchs of the Church of the East in Babylon from Mar Shimun Keepa (Saint Peter) until the schism of 1964.
The Ancient Church of the East considers itself a true continuation of this lineage, and recognizes the Assyrian Church of the East as the same. This schism occurred because of the changing of the church calendar from the traditional Julian to the modern Gregorian, along with hereditary succession and tribal rivalry. Directly following the split from the Assyrian Church of the East, the seat of the Patriarch remained vacant for three years before a Patriarch was elected. In 1968 communities in Iraq, Syria and India elected a rival Patriarch centered in Baghdad, the then suspended Metropolitan of India Mar Thoma Darmo. Mar Thoma Darmo consecrated prelates who in turn consecrated him Catholicos-Patriarch. Currently the Patriarchate is located in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Holy Synod of the Ancient Church of the East met in a council in Baghdad, Iraq in April 2009 and one of the decrees agreed at that council was to officially adopt the Gregorian calendar date for the celebration of Christmas only. The prelates present at the council were:
Mar Daniel Jacobs and Mar Emmanuel Elia, two bishops residing in the United States, were absent.
Prior to this decree, there were already a few parishes in the diaspora that celebrated Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar date. After a popular vote was conducted in several parishes, the decree was accepted and enacted by the Mar Addai II in June 2010 to take effect for Christmas 2010. All of the parishes worldwide accepted this decree. Since then, the Ancient Church of the East officially conducts the entire liturgical year, feasts and commemorations according to the Julian calendar, except for Christmas day. Despite the fact that a number of the separatist parishes have emerged from the Ancient Church of the East since 2011, all of them continue to adhere to the decree of June 2010 which regulated the celebration of Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar date. Currently, there are no current or previous separatist parishes that emerged as a reaction to the decision of June 2010, despite claims made by several websites and sources.
The Holy Synod of the Ancient Church of the East later met in a council in Baghdad, Iraq in May 2018 and once again passed a decree related to the celebration of Christmas. The prelates present at this council were:
Mar Zaia Khoshaba, Metropolitan of Canada and the United States, was unable to attend the council but agreed with all the decrees taken effect in the council.
In regards to the celebration of Christmas, it was decreed that clergy were allowed permission and permitted to celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar date if there were a considerable number of faithful within individual parishes who preferred this option.
At the beginning of 2011, the members of the Holy Synod consisted of the following:
Mar Aprem Daweed, bishop of Dohuk and secretary of the Holy Synod, who was ordained in April 2009, had resigned in November 2009. Mar Emmanuel Elia, bishop of the United States and Canada, had been relieved of his diocese in August 2009 and later resigned in May 2011. Mar Daniel Jacobs, who had been ordained in the Assyrian Church of the East in 1973, had joined the Ancient Church of the East in 1985 for personal reasons. After his ordination in 1973 and while still in the Assyrian Church of the East he became ill and his health deteriorated over the years. As a result of his illness, since 1985, his service in the Ancient Church of the East was solely of a ceremonial role in Modesto, California, where he resided under the care of his family members. Mar Daniel Jacobs died in October 2020, not in communion with the Ancient Church of the East, and his funeral was officiated in the Assyrian Church of the East, by bishops, Mar Awa Royel and Mar Yosip Sargis.
In January 2011, two metropolitans, Timothaus Mar Shallita (residing in Wiesbaden, Germany), alongside Mar Toma Gewargis (residing in Mosul, Iraq), met in an unofficial council in Iraq and defrocked the sitting Patriarch Mar Addai II due to allegations of misconduct. None of the clergy and parishes within the respective dioceses of the two metropolitans, nor throughout the worldwide church accepted this order. Thus, it is incorrect to call this decree a schism. However, from that point on, the two metropolitans began to act separately from the remaining members of the Holy Synod of the Ancient Church of the East, without any adherents. Mar Toma Gewargis later relocated to Hamilton, Canada in 2013.
In order to respond to the actions of the two metropolitans and the accusations of misconduct, a council was convened in Baghdad, Iraq in May 2011. The Patriarch was absolved of all allegations and his leadership was affirmed by the prelates who attended the synod, these being Mar Narsai Toma, Mar Yacob Daniel and Mar Zaia Khoshaba, along with the entire clergy and parishes of the church worldwide, including the clergy of St. Mary Church in Modesto, California where Mar Daniel Jacobs served as an honorary and ceremonial bishop due to his illness. During his council, the prelates decreed to ordain Rev. Emmanuel Shlimon to the rank of bishop and was assigned to serve as a suffragan bishop within the archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand under Mar Yacob Daniel, with his see also centred in Sydney. The ordination was conduced in August 2011 in Sydney, Australia by Mar Yacob Daniel and Mar Zaia Khoshaba, the latter representing Mar Addai II. Rev. Emmanuel Shlimon adopted the episcopal name of 'Mari Emmanuel.' In July 2013, while on a visit to Australia, Mar Addai II bestowed the patriarchal confirmation upon Mar Mari Emmanuel.
The St. Mary Church congregation in Modesto, California divided into two groups in 2012 due to several disagreements between the church board and Patriarch Mar Addai II and his representative in the United States, Mar Zaia Khoshaba. The then church board and their supporters comprised the anti-patriarchal group who later placed themselves under metropolitans, Timothaus Mar Shallita and Mar Toma Gewargis, but retained their independent structure. The patriarchal group continued to recognise Mar Addai II and Mar Zaia Khoshaba as the patriarchal representative. The two groups shared the St. Mary Church for six years, until 2018, when the court awarded the church to the patriarchal group. Since then, the separatists worship as an independent parish in a number of rented premises, and continue to recite the names of the two metropolitans in their litanies. Mar Daniel Jacobs, an invalid bishop for many years and living under the care of his family due to his illness, was also a member of the anti-patriarchal group and had sided with the board when the dispute emerged in 2012 as several members of the board consisted of members of his immediate family. He died in October 2020, and his funeral was officiated in the Assyrian Church of the East, by bishops, Mar Awa Royel and Mar Yosip Sargis. This congregation celebrates Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar date in line with the patriarchal decree of June 2010.
Mar Addai II visited the parishes of the archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand in 2013, and during his visit gave Mar Mari Emmanuel the patriarchal confirmation. Mar Addai II disapproved of a number of activities related to the bishop and issued a deadline in order for these activities to be repelled. These disapprovals varied from a range of different areas such as liturgical, theological and social conduct of the bishop. The deadline expired, and Mar Addai II went ahead and suspended Mar Mari Emmanuel in July 2014 for disobedience. Mar Mari Emmanuel contested the suspension and quoted a number of synodal decrees. The suspension was briefly withdrawn in December 2014, when Mar Mari Emmanuel consented to the patriarchal decrees, however, the suspension was again enacted as the bishop expressed disapproval for the second time. Mar Mari Emmanuel continues to contest the suspension order. In January 2015, Mar Mari Emmanuel established an independent church which is currently known as 'Christ The Good Shepherd Church.' In 2016, Mar Mari Emmanuel was received into communion with metropolitan, Mar Toma Gewargis, who paid a visit to the church later that year. Since 2017, Mar Mari Emmanuel annually visits the United States and Canada where he conducts preaching ministries in several states such as Illinois, Arizona, California and Ontario. Mar Mari Emmanuel has also paid several visits to the separatist and anti-patriarchal parish in Modesto, California, and the congregation acknowledge him as a spiritual prelate alongside the two metropolitans and recite his name in their litanies. Mar Mari Emmanuel's 'Christ The Good Shepherd Church' also celebrates Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar date in line with the patriarchal decree of June 2010. After his second suspension, the Holy Synod of the Ancient Church of the East has twice discussed the suspension case of Mar Mari Emmanuel in two official councils held in Chicago, Illinois in 2015 and in Baghdad, Iraq in 2018, respectively.
The Ancient Church of the East was distinguished by its intent to maintain the traditions passed on by the Church of the East. The schism that divided the Church of the East into two parts resulted mainly from controversial changes introduced by Mar Shimun XXI Eshai. The most obvious of these was the decision to replace the traditional Julian calendar with the Gregorian Calendar. Additionally, there were concerns raised in regard to the succession of the Patriarchate. The Patriarchate had been hereditary in the Mar Shimun family for six centuries, often resulting in the consecration of minors as head of the church. For example, the late Shimun XXI Eshai himself was ordained Patriarch at just twelve years old.
Under the tenure of Mar Addai II, the Ancient Church of the East has made several gestures towards reunification with the Assyrian Church of the East. The most prominent of these is undoubtedly the declaration made in June 2010 stating that the Ancient Church of the East would now celebrate Christmas in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Previously, the church used the traditional Julian date for the Christmas Day (December 25 of the Julian calendar currently corresponds to January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar), as the Church of the East had throughout its history. The decision was to be implemented later that year, on December 25, 2010. This was the first time since the schism that the two churches celebrated the Christmas holiday on the same day.
The declaration related to the celebration of Christmas was perceived as an attempt of reconciliation, and encouraged efforts for talks of reunification. A joint Holy Synod between the two churches was postponed, though is expected in the near future.
The international Assyrian community has long-since advocated for reunification, particularly in response to the 2014 and 2015 attacks launched against Assyrians in Iraq and Syria, respectively. Since that time, relations between the churches have improved on every level, particularly in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe.
This article needs to be updated.February 2018)(
Following the death (March 2015) of Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, dialogue of unification resumed between the churches. Reunification of the two branches of the Church of the East was encouraged by the Patriarch. Following an informal meeting between Mar Gewargis Younan and Mar Paulus Benjamin, an official meeting request was delivered to Mar Aprem Mooken, acting head of the Assyrian Church of the East.
On May 22, 2015, a meeting involving prelates of both Holy Councils took place in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, in the library of St. Andrew's Assyrian Church of the East. Present were Mar Yacoub Daniel, Mar Zaia Khoshaba, and Mar Gewargis Younan representing the Ancient Church of the East, and Mar Gewargis Sliwa, Mar Awa Royel, and Mar Iskhaq Yousif representing the Assyrian Church of the East. Archdeacon William Toma served as the meeting's common secretary. Mar Yacoub Daniel flew in from Australia for the meeting, and Mar Zaia traveled from Canada.
During the meeting, recommendations for unity between the Ancient Church of the East and Assyrian Church of the East were delivered through the selected representatives of each branch. The primary issues discussed were church leadership and the Holy Calendar. It was decided in this meeting that the individual Synods would meet separately to further discuss the terms. Another meeting between the two churches would then be scheduled to continue negotiations. It was requested by the Ancient Church of the East prelates that the election of the new Catholicos-Patriarch be delayed until negotiations had been concluded, in the hopes that a unified Synod would elect a successor together. In the event that the churches agree to reunify, Mar Addai II would be expected to resign. The Patriarch has already given his blessings, provided that the celebration of Easter Sunday in accordance with the traditional Julian calendar is maintained.
On June 1, 2015, the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East met in Erbil, Iraq, to discuss the future of the church. The date had previously been arranged for the election of the new Catholicos-Patriarch. Mar Awa Royel issued a statement on the same day, notifying the public that a response to the Ancient Church of the East's recommendations for reunification had been delivered to their prelates. The letter requested a prompt response to the terms, and the election of the new Patriarch was suspended until the following week, on June 8, 2015.
On June 2, 2015, Mar Gewargis Younan issued a statement on behalf of the Ancient Church of the East stating that a provisional decision had been reached to reunify the two branches. The statement dated June 2, 2015, also indicated that the Holy Synod of the Ancient Church planned to convene in the near future to issue a formal response.
On June 5, 2015, Mar Aprem Mooken issued a formal statement announcing that the election of the next Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East was suspended until September (2015), pending the unification of the churches.
It turned out that unification was not achievable. On 18 September, Assyrian Church of the East elected Mar Gewargis Sliwa as the new head of the Church, and he was consecrated and enthroned as Catholicos-Patriarch on 27 September 2015.
In spite of the fact that unification was not achieved, leaders of both Churches have continued to promote various forms of mutual cooperation.