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LISTEN: Assyrian Church of the East elects new patriarch

The new leader of the historic church must now navigate the unique political and spiritual challenges facing his shrinking community in Iraq and its worldwide diaspora.
Iraqi Assyrian Christians attend a ceremony with the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East to elect a new Catholicos-patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, at Saint Youhanna church in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Sept. 18, 2015.

The Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE) welcomed a new patriarch in Erbil on Sept. 13. Mar Awa Royel is the first American-born bishop of the ancient church and only the ninth new patriarch since 1780. In his new role, Royel must now guide the church through both political and spiritual challenges and encourage a community that is facing mounting pressure to leave Iraq, where the Assyrian population has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2003 to below 200,000 today. 


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