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Intercommunion between between Assyrians and Chaldeans

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Recognizing the validity of the eucharistic prayer used most often by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Vatican said Chaldean Catholics and Assyrians can receive Communion at each other's liturgies when a priest of their own church is not available.

"The principal issue for the Catholic Church in agreeing to this request related to the question of the validity of the Eucharist celebrated with the Anaphora of Addai and Mari,'' an ancient eucharistic prayer, said an Oct. 25 Vatican statement.

The statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undertook "a long and careful study'' of the prayer and concluded in January that it "can be considered valid.''

The chief concern, the Vatican said, was that the Assyrian prayer "from time immemorial ... has been used without a recitation of the institution narrative,'' a repetition of Christ's words at the Last Supper, "This is my body'' and "This is my blood.''

Jesuit Father Robert Taft, a liturgist at the Oriental Institute in Rome, said the decision "is extremely important.''

"It says the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of a eucharistic prayer which does not have the words of institution, abandoning a ritualistic insistence which began in the Middle Ages and showing enormous openness to the ancient traditions of another church,'' said Father Taft, one of the theologians the Vatican consulted in making its decision.

Prior to the publication of the Oct. 25 statement, members of the Assyrian Church of the East were allowed to receive the Eucharist at a Catholic church in emergency situations.

However, Father Taft said, "the Vatican was not so warm about Catholics receiving the Eucharist at their liturgies'' precisely because questions existed about the validity of the consecration when the Anaphora of Addai and Mari was used.

In the Catholic Church, the institution narrative is considered an essential part of the eucharistic prayer.

In a commentary on the decision, the Vatican said the Assyrian Anaphora "is one of the most ancient eucharistic prayers, dating back to the time of the very early church and the first liturgical regulations.'' "It was composed and used with the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper, in obedience to the command of the Lord,'' the commentary said.

While the absence of the institution narrative is "an exception in comparison with the Byzantine and Roman traditions,'' it "may be due to its very early origin and to the later isolation of the Assyrian Church of the East.''

At the same time, the doctrinal congregation concluded that, while the words of institution are not explicitly recited together in the prayer, they are dispersed throughout the prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession.

The Anaphora, it said, expresses "the full conviction of commemorating the Lord's paschal mystery in the strong sense of making it present; that is, the intention to carry out in practice precisely what Christ established by his words and actions in instituting the Eucharist.''

The Vatican said its review of the prayer and its publication of guidelines for eucharistic sharing between Assyrians and Chaldean Catholics is particularly important because so many faithful from both churches have emigrated from their traditional homeland in Iraq and the surrounding area.

With members spread across North America, Western Europe, the Middle East and Australia, finding a liturgy in their own church often is difficult, it said.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is led by Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, who is based in Baghdad, Iraq; the Assyrian Church is led by Patriarch Dinkha IV, who is based in Illinois.

The Chaldean Church was formed in the 16th century by a group of bishops who separated from the Assyrian Church of the East to enter into union with Rome. The two churches use the same liturgy, although the Chaldeans have added the words of institution to the Anaphora of Addai and Mari.

In 1978, the Assyrian synod voted to give its priests the option of adding the words to the Anaphora, an option that is being used more often, Father Taft said.

Taken from Catholic Times Nov 4, 2001

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