REGINA — ”How much do you know about the Ukrainian Catholic Church?” asked Saskatoon Eparchial Bishop Bryan Bayda as he passed around a microphone to people sitting in a u-shaped configuration at St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Hall May 23.
Bayda was the principal speaker as he and two other priests from Eastern Christian traditions spoke about Eastern churches and the East. Rev. Sabah Kamorah discussed the Chaldean church and Rev. Gregory Hrynkiw demonstrated some of the rituals of the Ukrainian church in an afternoon session in St. Basil’s Church.
Bayda reviewed the history of the eastern churches, the various schisms that occurred over the centuries and those that returned in full communion with Rome. The major schism occurred in 1054, said Bayda. “The debate got heated. There was a big discussion on ‘what do we believe’ and little things were being blown out of proportion.”
After centuries of discussion the Ukrainian Church was reunited with Rome in 1596, said Bayda. There are now 22 Eastern churches in communion with Rome and all but two of them have direct counterparts in liturgy and discipline, said the bishop.
“We have our own Canon Law, we are all Catholic, we celebrate differently,” said Bayda. “Despite the differences we are all going in the same direction, salvation and heaven.”
Kamorah said Chaldeans are descendents of ancient Babylonia and located several ancient sites in modern Iran and Iraq especially between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. They trace the origin of their religion to St. Thomas, who evangelized in the region in the first century. Initially their religion dominated the region but after the Muslim conquest in 647 Islam became the dominant faith.
“Most prayers and celebrations are in the Aramaic language,” said Kamorah. Chaldeans were united with Rome in 1552 but have their own bishops and patriarchs, he explained.
Chaldeans have suffered many persecutions, said Kamorah, the latest from ISIS or ISIL. “Since 2003, 80 churches have been bombed,” he said, “and now for the first time in history there are more Chaldeans living outside their homeland than in. Detroit is the biggest centre with about 170,000 living there. Canada has about 50,000 and there are about 250 families living in Saskatoon.
Near the end of the morning session Kamorah was asked to recite the Our Father in Aramaic as Christ would have said it, and he obliged.
After a Ukrainian lunch of perogies and sausage, the group attended a demonstration and explanation of rites, spirituality and the situation in Ukraine today from Hrynkiw.
The session was organized by the Regina Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission and introduced by Dr. Brett Salkeld, archdiocesan Theologian and Ecumenical Officer.