From the beginning of Creation, the Assyrians were a monotheist nation and their deep-rooted monotheistic traditions antedates by centuries the emergence of Deuteronomic monotheism. This is the reason, the Assyrians were the first nation that embraced Christianity. They were monotheists before Christ and Christians after Him, and the past therefore led on to the present without a break.
The Holy Apostolic Catholic (Universal) Assyrian Church of the East (ACOE) which was founded in Assyria (Iraq) during the first century is also known as the Assyrian national church, or mother church. Although ACOE has gone through many turbulences in the hands of the Crusaders and Islamic fanatics, and has sacrificed millions of Martyrs to have earned the title of “The Church of Martyrs” during her 2000 years history, but this church still stands proud and tall until the return of Christ.
Presently, ACOE is headed by His Holiness Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, the 120th Patriarch of the church, and the Holy Synod which consists of Metropolitans and Bishops.
The Assyrians around the world are celebrating the consecration of the ACOE Bishop of Australia and New Zealand to the rank of Metropolitan. His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia became the fourth Metropolitan in the current ACOE hierarchy. He is strongly admired and holds a very special place in people’s hearts. Therefore, his promotion to Metropolitan is a national joyful event which will not be forgotten for many generations to come.
H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia was ordained a priest of the Church in 1982 in California. He was appointed Bishop of Church’s Diocese of Australia and New Zealand in 1984 and arrived to take up that position in March 1985 which he has held up until today. He was ordained to the rank of Metropolitan before the Sunday mass today, December 7, 2008.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis has steadily built up the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. His most remarkable accomplishments consist of his pioneering work in the field of education and the establishment of educational facilities, e.g., the establishment of the first Assyrian school outside of the Assyrian homeland (Iraq). St. Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School in Sydney was a fulfillment of His Beatitude’s vision. Mar Narsai Assyrian College, a secondary school in Sydney, is now the second school run by the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, catering to hundreds of student in the Fairfield area and its surrounding suburbs. In 1988, Mar Meelis officially established the Assyrian Church Youth Group, focusing on the teaching and preaching the Word of God in the Assyrian language, which is until present day active within the community. H.B. Mar Meelis has also initiated a number of programs for youth, and those troubled with drug and alcohol addictions.
In these schools, H.B. Mar Meelis personally assists with organizing fund raising and services to provide the highest quality academic, religious, and nationalist education to the Assyrian children. He takes personal interest in all aspects of the schools operations, starting from the most nutritious foods the children are fed in the schools, all the way up to ensure that tormented Assyrian children refugees who arrive from Iraq, Syria and Jordan receive counseling services.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis was honored by the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on January 26, 2007 in the “Australia Day Honours List” and was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) medal for his community service through the Assyrian Church of the East. He is also an active member of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA). The international humanitarian and development of NCCA works with communities in 22 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific.
But His Beatitude Mar Meelis’ accomplishments are not limited to the Dioceses under his charge. As the Secretary of the Holy Synod, he lead the ACOE’s legal team and won an astonishing Summary Judgment on October 25, 2007, after it was proven in the court that the defrocked bishop of California, ex-bishop Ashor Bawai Soro had secretly changed the titles of the three churches entrusted to him in his Western California Diocese to his sole corporation, among other misappropriations of church funds in his trust. Later, during some television interviews, the expelled bishop Soro confessed he indeed had infiltrated the Assyrian Church of the East by stating that during his 20 years with this church his secret mission was to convert the ACOE into the Roman Catholic Church (G Plan).
With his hard work, juggling between his responsibilities in the Australia/New Zealand Diocese, and dealing with the troubles the ex-bishop Soro had created in California Diocese, His Beatitude Mar Meelis spent endless hours for two years in researching, in one account reading over 10,000 documents of the ACOE archives, consulting with the legal team, initiating and reviewing strategies to bring the biggest victory in the modern history of the Assyrian Church of East. His rescue of the California Diocese earned him the title of “The Treasure of the ACOE.” Ironically enough, H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia and the defrocked Bishop Soro were consecrated as Bishops on the same day in 1984! H.B. Mar Meelis became a hero and continues to be elevated, but ex-bishop Soro is discarded by the people and the law for his sinful actions.
Today, December 7, 2008 His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand. The ceremony was conducted by Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, H.B. Mar Narsai De Baz, Metropolitan of Lebanon, Syria, and Europe, H.B. Mar Aprem Mooken, Metropolitan of India, and a number of Bishops from around the world. The event drew thousands of people on a raining morning at the St Hurmizd Assyrian cathedral, Greenfield Park in Sydney Australia.
To the ancient Assyrians, the sun was a symbol of God. King Sargon, the ruler of the Assyrian Empire was given the title, "Son of the Sun" and “Son of the God.” As long as there are living legends like H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia in the ACOE leadership, the sun will never set on this Holy church and ancient nation.