Mar Awa Royel, new patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
He succeeds Mar Gewargis III Sliwa, who resigned in February 2020 for health reasons. The election postponed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The position is a "very sublime and very high responsibility." Goals include nurturing "identity, language, culture and civilization".
Erbil (AsiaNews) - The synod of the Assyrian Church of the East, which met yesterday in Erbil, elected Mar Awa Royel as its new patriarch, succeeding Mar Gewargis III Sliwa who had resigned in February 2020 for health reasons. The solemn vote and ceremony took place in the church of St. John the Baptist in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north of the country.
Interviewed by the Kurdish news agency Rudaw, the new patriarch called the election "a gift from the Lord" on which "we depend" for his "blessings," along with "God's grace" and the "prayers of the faithful." "That is a very sublime and very high responsibility, but the Lord gives it as he wills." Finally, he wanted to recall "the roots" of the Assyrian Church that "are here in Iraq," in this "blessed" land and region.
In 1933, the see was moved from the Middle East to the United States because of the geopolitical situation in the region and the persecution of Christians, starting with the Assyrian-Armenian genocide that took place in World War I. The first steps toward return in 2006, with the construction of the new patriarchal see in Erbil and the election of the last patriarch, with full authority in the place where the history of the Assyrian Church originated.
“By bringing back the patriarchal sees, since 2015 with the election of his holiness Mar Gewargis and now with this election, the church wants to stress that our roots are here and we will keep them here by the grace of God, so that our church and our people can remain and continue to keep their heritage, and their language, and their culture and civilization,” he said.
The choice of the new patriarch has been postponed several times because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has made it difficult to bring together the bishops and the main representatives of the Assyrian community of the East. Despite his less-than-optimal health, Gewargis himself wanted to welcome Pope Francis in person to Erbil during his historic apostolic trip to Iraq last March.
Son of the diaspora, Mar Awa David Royel was born on July 4, 1975 in Chicago, United States, and from a young age showed commitment and attachment to the local Assyrian reality. At the age of 16 he was ordained as a sub-deacon and the following year he became a full deacon. The ordination took place at the hands of Patriarch Emeritus Mar Dinkha IV. In 2008 he was elevated to the rank of bishop (the first American-born member of the Eastern Church to hold that position) of California, finally yesterday's appointment as patriarch after serving as secretary of the Synod since 2015.
The Assyrian Church of the East [Orthodox] is present in Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, the Gulf, India, the United States and Australia. Of the Eastern Syriac rite, the historic see is in Baghdad while the current one is in Erbil. Divided into 19 dioceses, it has about 330 thousand faithful scattered throughout the world.