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
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
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
Taken from Catholic Times Nov 4, 2001