Reception to welcome the newly ordained Patriarch of the Assyrian Ancient Church of the East

Members of the Wellington Abrahamic Council were invited to attend a reception to welcome the newly ordained Patriarch of the Assyrian Ancient Church of the East, His Holiness, Mar Gewargis III Younan, as part of his tour of the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand).

The reception was held on Friday 1st March 2024, beginning at 7pm at the Samoan Presbyterian Church located at 55 Daniell St in Newtown, Wellington.

The invitation came from Phil Pithyou, whose dad, Father Aprem Pithyou (now living in Australia), had been a member of the Abrahamic Council some years ago and held our Council in high regard for the inter-faith dialogues and meetings, which we either organised or attended.

Ann Desmond and Rev Rota Stone attended as representatives of the Abrahamic Council. We were made very welcome and given ‘front row’ seats where we had unobliterated views of all the proceedings.

Approximately 300 men, women, and children plus special guests, packed the hall attached to the Samoan Presbyterian Church in Newtown.

It was a very interesting evening with Phil Pithyou acting as MC. Many of those present were members of the Assyrian Ancient church of the East in Miramar. Supporting guests included Community based organisations, representatives from the Police, local government, other churches, the Jewish community, and the Wellington Abrahamic Council. Phil opened the evening by welcoming everyone, naming all the special guests.

The event proceeded with a number of speeches – all of which were spoken in Assyrian (a derivative of Aramaic). Fortunately, these were followed by an English summary for the benefit of those who did not speak or understand Assyrian.

A group of children and women entertained us by signing / chanting an Assyrian song. The children were delightful and coped very well considering this was the first time that they had performed their song in public.

The Patriarch was the last to speak, prior to the cake cutting ceremony. All the special guests were invited to cut the cake!

The evening proceeded with the main meal – a full meal of Assyrian / middle eastern foods – a veritable feast.

It was an honour to participate in the event. I have written to Phil Pithyou thanking him for the invitation and the welcome which was extended wholeheartedly to us.

Ann Desmond

Footnote: the new patriarch is described as ‘educated’ and ‘young’ (or younger than previous patriarchs). Although born in Iraq, he has lived his entire life in the USA, in Chicago. His ordination took place in Baghdad on 6 June 2023. The visiting delegation included the Vice-patriarch from Iraq, plus a number of other dignitaries.