Expressing hope that “our continuing friendship and dialogue may be further developed and deepened,” Pope Francis has sent a message to Mar Gewargis III, who was elected head of the Assyrian Church of the East on September 18.
The Iraqi-born Gewargis previously served as metropolitan of Iraq, Jordan, and Russia.
The church, which has 400,000 members, ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431). It is now headquartered in the Chicago area.
“It is my prayer that Your Holiness may be an inspirational pastor for the flock entrusted to your care and an untiring builder of peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East,” Pope Francis said in his message, which was released on September 21.
“I join Your Holiness in prayer and solidarity with all who suffer because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria,” the Pope added. “With you, I ask the Lord to grant them strength so that they may persevere in their Christian witness.”