In addition to the Consistory where the Chancellor of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Cardinal Cupich, received his red hat, this past week brought another honor to Mundelein, when four of our graduates began their membership on the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Fr. Thomas Baima (USML 1980) joined Mar Afrem Athaniel, Mar Awa (David) Royel and Fr. William Toma (all USML 1999) for the commission’s meeting with Pope Francis and Patriarch Mar Gewargis III
“Throughout the week, in his remarks to the Patriarch, at the ecumenical service he presided over and in his allocution to the new cardinals, Pope Francis called the world’s attention to the situation of Christians in the Middle East” Father Baima said. The work of this commission is to resolve the theological issues which remain so that the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church, one of the most ancient communities in Iraq and the Middle East, can once again restore full communion. In preparation for this work of re-union, the late Patriarch, Mar Dinkha IV, sent three of his priests to study at Mundelein for graduate degrees. Graduating in 1999, Fr. Afrem was ordained bishop and sent to Syria where he is dealing first hand with the crisis of the Middle East.. Father William and Father David were sent to Rome for post-graduate studies. Now the Bishop of California, Mar Awa (David) Royel and Fr. William Toma (who is teaching at Benedictine University in Lisle) serve as theologians for the Assyrian Church. Fr. Thomas Baima, who works nationally and internationally in the ecumenical movement, is the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at USML. Mundelein, therefore has a significant legacy in the work of this dialogue committee.
The Joint Commission hopes to complete work on a document on the sacramental life of the Church within one year, which will lead to a declaration by the Pope and the Patriarch that no obstacles remain around the sacraments which stand in the way of full communion. The group will then take up the issue ecclesiastical governance.