Chaldean Catholic Church

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Chaldean Catholic Church
ܥܕܬܐ ܟܠܕܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ
Ecclesia Chaldaeorum Catholica
Patriairch emblem1.gif
Emblem of the Chaldean Patriarchate
Founder Traces ultimate origins to Thomas the Apostle, Addai and Mari; emerged from the Church of the East in 1830
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches
Primate Louis Raphaël I Sako
Headquarters Baghdad, Iraq
Territory Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Georgia (country), Sweden, United Kingdom
Language Syriac,[1] Aramaic
Members 500,000[2][3]
A Chaldean Catholic Church in Basra 2014

The Chaldean Catholic Church (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܟܠܕܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ, ʿītha kaldetha qāthuliqetha), is an Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church, under the Holy See of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Babylon, maintaining full communion with the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church. The Chaldean Catholic Church presently comprises an estimated 500,000 people who are ethnic Assyrians[4][5][6][7][8][9] indigenous to northern Iraq, which was Assyria from the 25th century BC to 7th century AD, and areas bordering it in southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest Iran.


The history of the Chaldean Church is the history of the Church of the East founded between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD in Assyria (Persian ruled Assuristan) — represented today by at least eleven different churches, (then ruled by the successive Parthian and Sassanid Empires, where it was known by derivative names for Assyria; Athura and Assuristan) — between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. The region of Assyria was also the birthplace of the Syriac language and Syriac script, both of which remain important within all strands of Syriac Christianity. The terms Syriac and Syrian originally being Indo-Anatolian derivatives of Assyrian.[10]

It was originally a part of The Assyrian Church of the East before the 1553 consecration of Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa who entered communion with the Roman Catholic Church, when it was renamed the Church of Athura (Assyria) and Mosul. Subsequent to this, it was again renamed by Rome in 1683 as the Chaldean Catholic Church, despite none of its Assyrian adherents being connected ethnically, historically or geographically to the long-extinct Chaldeans, who had been completely absorbed into the general population of Babylonia in the 6th century BC, disappearing from history.

After the extensive massacres of Assyrian and other Christians by Tamerlane around 1400 AD had devastated many Assyrian bishoprics and finally destroyed the 4000 year old city of Assur, the Church of the East — which had extended as far as China, Central Asia, Mongolia and India — was largely reduced to Assyria, its place of origin. It was followed by its core founders of Eastern Aramaic speaking ethnic Assyrians who lived largely in the area of northern Mesopotamia between Amid (Diyarbakır), Mardin, Harran and Hakkari in the north to Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk in the south, and from Salmas and Urmia in the east to Al-Hassakeh, Tur Abdin and Edessa in the west; an area approximately encompassing ancient Assyria.[11]:55 The episcopal see was moved to Alqosh, in the Mosul region, and Patriarch Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437–1493) made the office of patriarch hereditary in his own family.[12]

1552: Yohannan Sulaqa

Dissent over the hereditary succession grew until 1552, when a group of Assyrian bishops, from the northern regions of Amid and Salmas, elected a priest, Mar Yohannan Sulaqa, as a rival patriarch. To look for a bishop of metropolitan rank to consecrate him patriarch, Sulaqa traveled to the pope in Rome and entered into communion with the Catholic Church, after first being refused by the Syriac Orthodox Church. In 1553 he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the rank of patriarch taking the name of Mar Shimun VIII. He was granted the title of "Patriarch of the East Assyrians", and his church was named The Church of Athura and Mosul.[13]

Mar Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa returned to northern Mesopotamia in the same year and fixed his seat in Amid. Before being put to death by the partisans of the Assyrian Church of the East patriarch of Alqosh,[11]:57 he ordained five metropolitan bishops thus beginning a new ecclesiastical hierarchy: the patriarchal line known as the Shimun line. The area of influence of this patriarchate soon moved from Amid east, fixing the See, after many places, in the isolated Assyrian village of Qochanis.

The connections with Rome loosened up under Sulaqa's successors: The last patriarch to be formally recognized by the Pope died in 1600, the hereditary of the office was reintroduced and, in 1692, the communion with Rome was formally broken, with this part of the church once more rejoining the Assyrian Church of the East.

1672: The Josephite line of Amid

A new so-called 'Chaldean' Patriarchate occurred in 1672 when Mar Joseph I, Archbishop of Amid, entered in communion with Rome, separating from the Assyrian Church Patriarchal see of Alqosh. In 1681 the Holy See granted him the title of "Patriarch of the Chaldeans deprived of its patriarch."

It is believed that the term 'Chaldean Catholic' arose due to a Catholic Latin misinterpretation and misreading of the Hebrew Ur Kasdim (according to long held Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham in northern Mesopotamia) as meaning Ur of the Chaldees.[14] The Hebrew Kasdim does not mean or refer to the Chaldeans. Ur Kasdim is generally believed by many to have been somewhere in Assyria, northeastern Syria or southeastern Anatolia. The 18th century Roman Catholic Church then applied this misinterpreted name to their new diocese in northern Mesopotamia, a region whose indigenous inhabitants had always previously been referred to ethnically as Assurayu, Assyrians, Assouri, Ashuriyun, East Syrian, Athurai, Atoreh, etc., and by the denominational terms Syriac Christians, Jacobites and Nestorians.

Thus the term 'Chaldean Catholic' is historically, usually and properly taken purely as a doctrinal and theological term for Assyrian converts to Catholicism.[15][16][16] The modern Chaldean Catholics are Assyrians[17] and originated from ancient Assyrian communities living in and indigenous to the north of Iraq/Upper Mesopotamia which was known as Assyria from the 25th century BC until the 7th century AD (rather than the long-extinct Chaldeans/Chaldees, who were 9th century BC migrants from The Levant, and always resided in the far southeast of Mesopotamia, and wholly disappeared from history circa 550 BC). Chaldean Catholics originate from the exact same cities, towns and villages as other Assyrians, speak exactly the same dialects of Eastern Aramaic, have exactly the same family, tribal and personal names, and have the same genetic profile.

Despite this, a minority of Chaldean Catholics (particularly in the United States) have in recent times confused a purely religious term with an ethnic identity, and espoused a separate ethnic identity to their Assyrian brethren, despite there being no historical, academic, cultural, geographic, archaeological, linguistic, anthropological or genetic evidence supporting a link (or any sort of Chaldean continuity) to the late Iron Age Chaldean land or race, rather they are regarded as part of the Assyrian continuity by scholars.

Raphael Bidawid, the then patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church commented on the Assyrian name dispute in 2003 and clearly differentiated between the name of a church and an ethnicity:

“I personally think that these different names serve to add confusion. The original name of our Church was the ‘Church of the East’ … When a portion of the Church of the East became Catholic in the 17th Century, the name given to the 'church' was ‘Chaldean’ based on the Magi kings who were believed by some to have come from what once had been the land of the Chaldean, to Bethlehem. The name ‘Chaldean’ does not represent an ethnicity, just a church… We have to separate what is ethnicity and what is religion… I myself, my sect is Chaldean, but ethnically, I am Assyrian.”[18]

In an interview with the Assyrian Star in the September–October 1974 issue, he was quoted as saying:

“Before I became a priest I was an Assyrian, before I became a bishop I was an Assyrian, I am an Assyrian today, tomorrow, forever, and I am proud of it.”[19]

All Joseph I's successors took the name of Joseph. The life of this patriarchate was difficult: at the beginning due to the vexations from the traditionalists, under which they were subject from a legal point of view, and later it struggled with financial difficulties due to the tax burden imposed by the Turkish authorities.

Nevertheless its influence expanded from the original towns of Amid and Mardin towards the area of Mosul and the Nineveh plains. The Josephite line merged in 1830 with the Alqosh patriarchate that in the meantime entered in full communion with Rome.

The Alqosh Patriarchate in communion with Rome

The largest and oldest patriarchal see of the Assyrian Church of the East was based at the Rabban Hormizd monastery of Alqosh. It spread from Aqrah up to Seert and Nisibis, covering in the south the rich plain of Mosul. Already in the short period between 1610 and 1617 it entered in communion with Rome, and in 1771 the patriarch Eliya Denkha signed a Catholic confession of faith, but no formal union resulted. When Eliya Denkha died, his succession was disputed by two cousins: Eliyya Isho-Yab, who was recognized by Rome but soon broke the communion, and Yohannan Hormizd, who considered himself a Catholic.

In 1804, after Eliyya Isho-Yab's death, Yohannan Hormizd remained the only patriarch of Alqosh. There were thus two patriarchates in communion with Rome, the larger one in Alqosh, and in Amid that ruled by Augustine (Yousef V) Hindi. Rome did not want to choose between the two candidates and granted neither the title of Patriarch, even if from 1811 it was Augustine Hindi who ruled the Church. After Hindi's death, on the July 5, 1830, Yohannan Hormizd was formally confirmed Patriarch by Pope Pius VIII with the title of "Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans."[20]:528 The merger of the patriarchates of Alqosh and Amid was completed.

On the other hand, the Shimun line of patriarchs, based in Qochanis, remained in the Assyrian church, independent of the new Chaldean Church. The Patriarchate of the present-day Assyrian Church of the East, with its See in Chicago, forms the continuation of that line.[21]

19th century: expansion and disaster

Faisal I of Iraq with all the Chaldean bishops and the Patriarch Yousef VI Emmanuel II Thomas

The following years of the Chaldean Church were marked by externally originating violence: in 1838 the monastery of Rabban Hormizd and the town of Alqosh was attacked by the Kurds of Soran and hundreds of Christian Assyrians died.[22]:32 In 1843 the Kurds started to collect as much money as they could from Assyrian villages, killing those who refused: more than 10,000 Assyrian Christians of all denominations were killed and the icons of the Rabban Hormizd monastery defaced.[11]:298

In 1846 the Chaldean Church was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as a 'millet', a distinctive 'religious community' in the Empire, thus obtaining its civic emancipation.[20] The most famous patriarch of the Chaldean Church in the 19th century was Joseph VI Audo who is remembered also for his clashes with Pope Pius IX mainly about his attempts to extend the Chaldean jurisdiction over the Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. This was a period of expansion for the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In the early 20th century Russian Orthodox missionaries established two dioceses in north Assyria. Many Assyrian leaders believed that the Russian Empire would be more interested in protecting them than the British Empire and the French Empire.[22]:36 Hoping for the support of the Russians, World War I and the subsequent Assyrian Genocide was seen as the right time to rebel against the Ottoman Empire. An Assyrian War of Independence was launched, led by Agha Petros and Malik Khoshaba. On 4 November 1914 the Turkish Enver Pasha announced the Jihad, the holy war, against the Christians.[23]:161 Assyrian forces fought successfully against overwhelming odds in northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran for a time. However, the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the collapse of Armenian resistance left the Assyrians cut off from supplies of food and ammunition, vastly outnumbered and surrounded. Assyrian territories were overrun by the Ottoman Empire and their Kurdish and Arab allies, and the people forced to flee: most who escaped the massacres and continuation of the Assyrian Genocide died from cold in the winter or hunger. The disaster struck mainly the regions of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean dioceses in north Assyria (Amid, Siirt and Gazarta) were ruined (the Chaldeans metropolitans Addai Scher of Siirt and Philip Abraham of Gazarta were killed in 1915).[22]:37

A further massacre occurred in 1933 at the hands of the Iraqi Army, in the form of the Simele massacre, which resulted in thousands of deaths.

21st century: eparchies around the world

A recent development in the Chaldean Catholic Church has been the creation in 2006 of the Eparchy of Oceania, with the title of 'St Thomas the Apostle of Sydney of the Chaldeans'.[24] This jurisdiction includes the Chaldean Catholic communities of Australia and New Zealand, and the first Bishop, named by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 October 2006, is Archbishop Djibrail (Jibrail) Kassab, until this date, Archbishop of Bassorah in Iraq.[25]

There has been a large immigration to the United States particularly to southeast Michigan.[26] Although the largest population resides in southeast Michigan, there are populations in parts of California and Arizona as well. Canada in recent years has shown growing communities in both eastern provinces, such as Ontario, and in western Canada, such as Saskatchewan.

In 2008, Mar Bawai Soro of the Assyrian Church of the East and 1,000 Assyrian families were received into full communion with the Chaldean Catholic Church from the Assyrian Church of the East.[27]

On Friday, June 10, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI erected a new Chaldean Catholic eparchy in Toronto, Canada and named Archbishop Mar Yohannan Zora, who has worked alongside four priests with Catholics in Toronto (the largest community of Chaldeans) for nearly 20 years and who was previously an ad personam Archbishop (he will retain this rank as head of the eparchy) and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese (Archeparchy) of Ahwaz, Iran (since 1974). The new eparchy, or diocese, will be known as the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai. There are 38,000 Chaldean Catholics in Canada. Archbishop Zora was born in Batnaia, Iraq, on March 15, 1939. He was ordained in 1962 and worked in Iraqi parishes before being transferred to Iran in 1969.[28]

The 2006 Australian census counted a total of 4,498 Chaldean Catholics in that country.[29]

Persecution in Iraq

Assyrians of all denominations, and other religious minorities in Iraq, have endured extensive persecution since 2003, including the abductions and murders of their religious leaders, threats of violence or death if they do not abandon their homes and businesses, and the bombing or destruction of their churches and other places of worship. All this has occurred as anti-Christian emotions rise within Iraq after the American invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the rise of militant Jihadists and religious militias.[30]

Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, the pastor of the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul who graduated from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 2003 with a licentiate in ecumenical theology, was killed on 3 June 2007 in Mosul alongside the subdeacons Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed, after he celebrated mass.

Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho and three companions were abducted on 29 February 2008, in Mosul, and murdered a few days later.

Ecumenical relations

The Church's relations with its fellow Assyrians in the Assyrian Church of the East have improved in recent years. In 1994 Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East signed a Common Christological Declaration.[31] On the 20 July 2001, the Holy See issued a document, in agreement with the Assyrian Church of the East, named Guidelines for admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, which confirmed also the validity of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari.[32]


The Chaldean Catholic Church has the following dioceses:


The current Patriarch is Louis Sako, elected in January 2013. In October 2007, his predecessor, Emmanuel III Delly became the first Chaldean Catholic patriarch to be elevated to the rank of Cardinal within the Catholic Church.[33]

The present Chaldean episcopate (January 2014) is as follows:

  • Mar Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon (since February 2013);
  • Mar Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch emeritus of Babylon (December 2003 – 2012)
  • Emil Shimoun Nona, Archbishop of Mosul (since November 2009);
  • Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Arbil (since July 2010)
  • Ramzi Garmou, Archbishop of Teheran (since February 1999);
  • Thomas Meram, Archbishop of Urmia and Salmas (since 1984);
  • Yohannan Zora, Archbishop of Toronto (since June 2011);
  • Jibrail Kassab, Archbishop of Sydney (since October 2006);
  • Mar Jacques Ishaq, Titular Archbishop of Nisibis and curial Bishop of Babylon (since December 2005);
  • Habib Al-Naufali, Archbishop of Basra (since 2014)
  • Yousif Mirkis, Archbishop of Kirkuk and Suleimanya (since 2014)
  • Mar Mikha Pola Maqdassi, Bishop of Alqosh (since December 2001)
  • Mar Shlemon Warduni, curial Bishop of Babylon (since 2001).
  • Mar Saad Sirop, auxiliary Bishop of Babylon (since 2014)
  • Mar Antony Audo, Bishop of Aleppo (since January 1992);
  • Mar Michael Kassarji, Bishop of Lebanon (since 2001);
  • Mar Rabban Al-Qas, Bishop of ʿAmadiya and Zakho (since December 2001);
  • Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit (since April 1982 – 2014);
  • Mar Francis Kalabat, Bishop of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit (since June 2014)
  • Mar Sarhad Joseph Jammo, Bishop of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego (since July 2002);
  • Mar Bawai Soro, Titular Bishop of Foratiana and auxiliary bishop of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego (since 2014)

Several sees are vacant: Archeparchy of Diyarbakir, Archeparchy of Ahwaz, Eparchy of 'Aqra, Eparchy of Cairo.


The Chaldean Catholic Church uses the East Syrian Rite.

A slight reform of the liturgy was effective since 6 January 2007, and it aimed to unify the many different uses of each parish, to remove centuries-old additions that merely imitated the Roman Rite, and for pastoral reasons. The main elements of variations are: the Anaphora said aloud by the priest, the return to the ancient architecture of the churches, the restoration of the ancient use where the bread and wine are readied before a service begins, and the removal from the Creed of the Filioque clause.[34]

See also


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External links

  1. "The Chaldean Catholic Church". CNEWA. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  2. Ronald Roberson. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2010" (PDF). Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Retrieved December 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help) Information sourced from Annuario Pontificio 2010 edition
  3. CNEWA - Chaldean Catholic Church
  4. Parpola, Simo (2004). "National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (JAAS) 18 (2): pp. 22.
  5. History of Mikhael The Great Chabot Edition p. 748, 750, quoted after Addai Scher, Hestorie De La Chaldee Et De "Assyrie"[1]
  6. "Especially in view of the very early establishment of Christianity in Assyria and its continuity to the present and the continuity of the population, I think there is every likelihood that ancient Assyrians are among the ancestors of modern Assyrians of the area." Biggs, pp. 10
  7. Assyrians After Assyria, Parpola
  8. Nisan, M. 2002. Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle for Self Expression .Jefferson: McFarland & Company.
  9. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Travis, Hannibal. Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010, 2007, pp. 237-77, 293–294
  10. Frye, R. N. (October 1992). "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms" (PDF). Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (4): 281–285. doi:10.1086/373570.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Charles A. Frazee, Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453-1923, Cambridge University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-521-02700-4
  12. Chaldean Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic), The new Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic University of America, Vol. 3, 2003 p. 366.
  13. George V. Yana (Bebla), "Myth vs. Reality," JAA Studies, Vol. XIV, No. 1, 2000 p. 80
  14. Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2001: Where Was Abraham's Ur? by Allan R. Millard
  15. Travis, Hannibal. Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010, 2007, pp. 237-77, 293–294
  16. 16.0 16.1
  17. Nisan, M. 2002. Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle for Self Expression. Jefferson: McFarland & Company.
  18. Parpola, Simo (2004). "National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. JAAS. 18 (2): pp. 22. 
  19. Mar Raphael J Bidawid. The Assyrian Star. September–October, 1974:5.
  20. 20.0 20.1 O’Mahony, Anthony (2006). "Syriac Christianity in the modern Middle East". In Angold, Michael. Eastern Christianity. Cambridge History of Christianity. 5. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81113-2. 
  21. Heleen H.L. Murre. "The Patriarchs of the Church of the East from the Fifteenth to Eighteenth Centuries". Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 David Wilmshurst, The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318-1913, Peeters Publishers, 2000 ISBN 90-429-0876-9
  23. Christoph, Baumer (2006). The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity. I B Tauris & Co. ISBN 978-1-84511-115-1. 
  24. "Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Sydney (Chaldean)". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  25. "Archbishop Djibrail Kassab". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  26. "Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit (Chaldean)". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  27. "Assyrian Bishop Mar Bawai Soto explains his journey into communion with the Catholic Church". Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  28. "CNS NEWS BRIEFS Jun-10-2011". Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  29. 2006 Religious Affiliation (Full Classification). "» 2006 Religious Affiliation (Full Classification) The Census Campaign Australia". Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  30. "Iraq's Persecution of Christians Continues to Spiral out of Control". Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  31. "Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East". Vatican. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  32. "Guidelines issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity". Vatican. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  33. AP[dead link]
  34. "TQ & A on the Reformed Chaldean Mass". Retrieved 2009-02-07.