His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, recently passed from this life. He was the leader of the Assyrian Church of the East much as His Holiness Pope Francis is for the Catholic Church.
He was a native of Iraq, but due to violence in the area against Christians, he immigrated to the United States. He eventually was elected Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. For those who do not know what this is, it is Church split from the Roman Church after the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. in which the conciliar fathers decreed that Mary is Mother of God. Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, disagreed with the Council even saying that Mary as a creature could not be the Mother of God, but simply the Mother of Christ. The Assyrian Church is an ethno-religious group based on the Assyrians though it made converts as far east as China. In spite of the doctrinal disagreement over Mary as Mother of God, the Catholic Church recognizes the Assyrian Church as having valid Sacraments as a join declaration stated, “Living by this faith and these sacraments, it follows as a consequence that the particular Catholic churches and the particular Assyrian churches can recognize each other as sister Churches” (Common Christological between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East).
In the 16th century, many Assyrians were received into full communion with the Holy See of Rome after the 1552 Schism in which Mar Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa was ordained and a year later became the first Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. They established big communities in cities like Mosul which are now under siege by the Islamic State.
Some might raise concerns though and say we cannot revere somebody who did not join into full communion with the Catholic Church. While the Church was taught that membership is necessary for salvation, Assyrians do have a valid Baptism since they baptize with the mind of the Church. Those baptized but not in full communion with the Holy See are still joined to the Church in some way known to God Himself though not perfectly. It should be further noted that Mar Dinkha helped improve Assyrian-Catholic ecumenical relations in seeking full communion. Though we cannot assume with certainty the salvation of a deceased non-Catholic, many can see his heart was in the right place as he worked for closer unity rather than vice versa.
The Assyrian flag
Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.