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Chaldean Catholics from Mardin, 19th century.

The Chaldean Christians (Chaldo-Assyrians, Assyro-Chaldeans; Neo-Aramaic: ܟܠܕܝܐ Keldaya, Suraya), are adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In the 16th century, a major segment of the Assyrian Church of the East united with Rome while retaining its ancient liturgy. They are now called the Chaldean Church, to which most Assyrian Christians belong.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Today in the Middle East, the group identifies itself as Sūrāyā (Syrian) in singular and Sūrāyē in plural [22], which is considered to be a synonym of Aššūrāye (Assyrians.) The group translates the word Suraye as Christians, for when Chaldeans had their name changed from Nestorians when they reunited with the Catholic Church, the identity was necessarily coupled with Catholicism. In the diaspora, however, and specifically in the United States and Australia, some understand the group to have adopted the Chaldean name only as an ethnicity.

They are settled primarily in Iraq, with smaller communities in Turkey and Iran, for the most part speaking the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic language. A formerly Nestorian denomination, they were united with the Roman Catholic Church in 1553.[23][24] The Chaldean Catholic Church was established, and its first patriarch was proclaimed patriarch of "Mosul and Athur" (Nineveh and Assyria) on February 20, 1553 by Pope Julius III.[25]

Chaldean Catholics have no direct or absolute lineage with the Neo-Babylonian Empire "Chaldeans", but were designated with the name Chaldean in the 16th century when they reunited with the Catholic Church to distinguish from the adherents of the Assyrian Church of the East.[24][26]

Also sometimes known as "Chaldean Christians" are the Christians of St. Thomas of India (also called the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church), ethnically Nasrani (speakers of Malayalam).

Name and territory

Strictly, the name of Chaldeans is no longer correct; in Chaldea proper, apart from Baghdad, there are now very few adherents of this rite, most of the Chaldean population being found in the cities of Kerkuk, Arbil, and Mosul, in the heart of the Tigris valley, in the valley of the Zab, in the mountains of northern Iraq. It is in the former ecclesiastical province of Ator (Assyria) that are now found the most flourishing of the Catholic Chaldean communities. There are also significant communities of Chaldean Catholics in other Middle eastern countries (for instance Iran and Lebanon) and in the United States (where there are two dioceses). The native population accepts the name of Atoraya-Kaldaya (Assyro-Chaldeans) while in the neo-Syriac vernacular Christians generally are known as Syrians. The territory now occupied by these Chaldeans belonged once to the Sassanid Empire of Persia, later Umayyad and then the Abbassid caliphs of Islam. Turkish and Mongol invasions, and later efforts to reconstruct the former Kingdom of Persia shattered effectually the earlier political unity of this region; since the end of the 16th century the territory of the Chaldeans has been under Turkish or Persian rule. In fact, however, a number of the mountain tribes are only nominally subject to either.

Chaldean Catholics in Turkey and Iraq

Present status

The 1896 Statistics of the Catholic Chaldeans[27] counted 233 parishes and 177 churches or chapels. The Catholic Chaldean Clergy numbered 248 priests; they are assisted by the religious of the Congregation of St. Hormizd (Rabban-Hormizd) who numbered about one hundred. There were about 52 Chaldean schools (not counting those conducted by Latin nuns and missionaries). At Mosul there was a patriarchal seminary, distinct from the Syro-Chaldean seminary directed by the Dominicans. The total number of the Chaldeans according to the above-mentioned authority was nearly 78,000, 24,000 of whom are in the Diocese of Mosul. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 preferred a number of about 66,000 as against 140,000 Nestorians. According to Joseph Tfinkdji, a Chaldean priest from Mardin, who collected statistics for the entire Chaldean Church in 1913, the size of the Chaldean Church in June 1913 was totally 101,610.[28] The Chaldean Catholic Church presently comprises an estimated 2.5 million Chaldean Christians.

The patriarch considers Baghdad as the principal city of his see. His title of "Patriarch of Babylon" results from the identification of Baghdad with ancient Babylon (Baghdad is 55 miles north of the ancient city of Babylon and corresponds to northern Babylonia). However, the Chaldean patriarch resides habitually at Mosul and reserves for himself the direct administration of this diocese and that of Baghdad. There are five archbishops (resident respectively at Basra, Diyarbakır, Kirkuk, Salamas, and Urmia) and seven bishops. Eight patriarchal vicars govern the small Chaldean communities dispersed throughout Turkey and Persia. The Chaldean clergy, especially the monks of Rabban-Hormizd, have established some missionary stations in the mountain districts inhabited by Nestorians. Three dioceses are in Persia, the others in Turkey.

The liturgical language of the Chaldean Church is Syriac and Arabic. Other languages such as Turkish, Persian and Kurdish are variously spoken by the people; in some districts the vernacular is neo-Syriac. The liturgical books are those of the ancient Nestorian Church, corrected in the sense of Catholic orthodoxy. Unfortunately, without doctrinal necessity, they have in some places been made to conform with Latin usage.

The literary revival in the early 20th century was mostly due to the Lazarist, Pere Bedjan, a Persian Chaldean, who devoted much industry and learning to popularizing among his people, both Catholics and Nestorians, their ancient chronicles, the lives of Chaldean saints and martyrs, even works of the ancient Nestorian doctors.[29]

Current situation

Today, Chaldo-Assyrians suffer discrimination in Iraq and were deported from the Nineveh plains under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist rule.[30]

In mid-March 2008, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho was found dead, having been kidnapped two weeks earlier. Pope Benedict XVI condemned his death, by saying it was an act of inhuman violence. Sunni and Shia Muslim also expressed their condemnation.[31]

See also


  1. Assyrian people
  2. “Arabs and Christians? Christians in the Middle East” by Antonie Wessels. “In 1551, the Assyrian community refused to accept the appointment of Shim’un VII Denka as Patriarch of the Church of the East. They sent a monk, Yohannan Sulaqa, to Rome, where he was appointed Patriarch of Babylon and head of the first church in the Middle East to unite with Rome. While the name Assyrian refers to an ethnic identity, the name Chaldean refers to the (Catholic) ‘rite’. He later died as a martyr in Diyarbekr (Eastern Turkey) at the hands of the anti-Catholic community. In 1672 more than a century after the failure of Patriarch Sulaqa to effect the ‘return’ of the Nestorians, a separate Chaldean rite was organized.”
  3. “Aqaliyat shimal al-‘Araq; bayna al-qanoon wa al-siyasa” (Northern Iraq Minorities; between Law and Politics) by Dr. Jameel Meekha Shi’yooka. “The Assyrians themselves are broken into Nestorians (not connected to Rome or the Catholic Church and are the minority) and are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, and besides the Nestorians there are the Chaldeans, a majority who came out from the Nestorians and are connected with the Catholic Church in Rome.” (a translation from Arabic)
  4. “The Eastern Christian Churches” by Ronald Roberson. “In 1552, when the new patriarch was elected, a group of Assyrian bishops refused to accept him and decided to seek union with Rome. They elected the reluctant abbot of a monastery, Yohannan Sulaqa, as their own patriarch and sent him to Rome to arrange a union with the Catholic Church. In early 1553 Pope Julius III proclaimed him Patriarch Simon VIII “of the Chaldeans” and ordained him a bishop in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 9, 1553. The new Patriarch returned to his homeland in late 1553 and began to initiate a series of reforms. But opposition, led by the rival Assyrian Patriarch, was strong. Simon was soon captured by the pasha of Amadiya, tortured and executed in January 1555. Eventually Sulaqa’s group returned to the Assyrian Church of the East, but for over 200 years, there was much turmoil and changing of sides as the pro- and anti-Catholic parties struggled with one another. The situation finally stabilized on July 5, 1830, when Pope Pius VIII confirmed Metropolitan Youhanna (John) Hormizd as head of all Chaldean Catholics, with the title of Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, with his see in Mosul.”
  5. “History of Syria” by Prof. Philip Hitti, professor of Semitic literature at Princeton University. “Before the rise of Islam the Syrian Christian Church [Assyrian] had split into several communities. There was first the East Syrian Church or the Church of the East. This communion, established in the late second century, claims uninterrupted descent in its teachings, liturgy, consecration and tradition from the time the Edessene King Abgar allegedly wrote to Christ asking him to relieve him of an incurable disease and Christ promised to send him one of his disciples after his ascension. This is the church erroneously called Nestorian, after the Cilician Nestorius, whom it antedates by about two and a half centuries. The term Nestorian was applied to it at a late date by Roman Catholics to convey the stigma of heresy in contradistinction to those of its members who joined the Catholic Church as Uniats and received the name Chaldeans.”
  6. “The British Betrayal of the Assyrians” by Yousuf Malek (A member of the Chaldean Catholic Church). a. “The Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire as indicated in chapter 1, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Nestorian, Jacobite, Chaldean, Maronite and Syrian Catholic…” b. “The Chaldeans are of the same stock and family as the Assyrians, and their language is one. Like the Assyrians, they have preserved their mother-tongue. In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Missions, which were at work in Syria, extended their missionary work to Basrah to the south of Iraq and then to the north, in the Mosul regions. To avoid the oppression of their rulers, the Chaldeans were forced by circumstances to seek the then powerful protection of Rome. Until a century ago, Rome was able to win over a considerable number of so-called Chaldeans.” c. “The term, “Chaldean”, was originally given to the members of the Church of the East, who lived in Iraq, first, for their geographical situation, and second, for the historical surroundings.”
  7. “Reasons for the backwardness of the Assyrians” by Professor Ashur Yousuf, member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, published on October 20, 1914. “The hindrance to the development of the Assyrians was not so much the attacks from without as it was from within--the doctrinal and sectarian disputes and struggles like monophysitism and dyophsitism is a good example. These caused division, spiritually and nationally, among the people who quarreled among themselves even to the point of shedding blood. To this very day the Assyrians are still known by various names, such as Nestorians, Jacobites, Chaldeans…”
  8. “Iraq: A Country Study”, Edited by Helen Chapin Metz. “The Assyrians are considered to be the third largest ethnic minority in Iraq. Although official Iraqi statistics do not refer to them as an ethnic group, they are believed to represent about 133,000 persons, or less than 1 percent of the population. Descendants of ancient Mesopotamian peoples, they speak Aramaic. The Assyrians live mainly in the major cities and in the rural areas of northeastern Iraq, where they tend to be professionals and businessmen or independent farmers. They are Christians, belonging to one of four churches: the Chaldean (Uniate), the Nestorian, the Jacobite or Syrian Orthodox, and the Syrian Catholic.”
  9. “L’Orient Syrien” – issue 10 by J. M. Fiey. “The Christians who lived for generations in the land of Ashur, Kalah (Nimrud), and Nineveh have the right, more than anybody else, to be called Assyrians (Ashuriyeen) even though they are religiously known as Chaldeans and Sir-yan.”
  10. “Aqaliyat fi sharq al-mutawasit” (Minorities East of the Mediterranean) by Fa’iz Sara. “Many vary on calling the Ashuriyeen (Assyrians), who are the most ancient peoples in the region and numerous titles are present including Athouriyeen (Atourayeh). Few refer to the Chaldeans or Nestorians, and at times al-Siryan too, as Ashuriyeen (Assyrians). All these names refer to one title Ashuriyeen (Assyrian) whose various titles were mentioned in historical and religious sources.
  11. “Fi Al-Asil wa Al-Fasil wa Mulahadat Ukhra” (Roots, Classifications, and Other Remarks) by Dr. Saadi Al-Malih. "Lets get back again to the names given to this nation of Al-Ashuriyon, Al-Siryan, Nestorians, Catholics, Christians and now Chaldeans, they all were fabricated to indicate this nation’s religious belief since groups of Assyrians switched their religious beliefs so many times."
  12. "The Church of the East and the Church of England" by J. F. Coakley, “On the other side, the British government was now making strenuous efforts to satisfy the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations that Iraq was ready for self-government and minorities had nothing to fear. Briefed by the League of Nations Union, who shared the anxieties about minorities in Iraq, Lang in July put down a question in the House of Lords; to ask what provisions has been made in the Treaty between Great Britain and Iraq signed at Baghdad on June 30th for the security of the Assyrians, (Nestorian and Chaldean): and whether, in view of the serious reports as to the conditions in which the Assyrians are now living, the Government will take all necessary measures to secure the improvement of those conditions."
  13. “The Discovery of an Assyrian Archaeologist” by David B. Perley (An Assyrian from the Syrian Orthodox Church), An analysis and review of Rassam's book 'Ashur and the land of Nimrud'. On Assyrian Sects Quote: In the realm of sects, his journeys [Rassam’s] revealed that the chief Christian sects or millets (subject nationalities) were Assyrians or Chaldean Nestorians, Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Jacobite, and Syrian Catholic, all of whom are of Assyrian origin … No matter how miscontrue the Assyrian malaise in the intolerable confusion of titles, as do most clerics who originated it, sustain, support, and cherish it now—the Chaldeans are Assyrians! Rassam’s pronouncements are on record. Exclaimed he (page 168): “What more natural, the, that they should have applied to them the title of Chaldean, to which they have some claim nationally, in virtue of their Assyrian descent?” unquote.
  14. “Assyrian-Chaldean Christians in Eastern Turkey and Iran” by Dr. J. C .J. Sanders Dr. Sanders made many journeys -on his own or together with students- to towns in Eastern Turkey such as Seert and Van, which are mentioned in this atlas, and from those to Syria via Nisibis, the town of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373). He also made occasional visits to Northern Iraq, to the towns of Alqosh and Amadiya near the border with Turkey. He often stayed at the Assyrian-catholic, or Chaldean, monastery of Rabban Hormizd, where he was kindly accommodated, sometimes in a cave
  15. The Assyrian Star / No. 5, September-October issue 1974. Mar Rafael BeDaweed, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said in an interview; " ... Personally, my family became Chaldean only some 100 years ago, my grandfather Daweed was a Nestorian priest, and the same is true with all the rest of us ..." " ... we need to differenciate between nationality and Church, between church and politics ... the Chaldean title for us does not mean ethnicity or nationality, historically there is not an Assyrian religion. True Assyrianism is an ethnicity and we all are Assyrians. We could be Assyrians ethnicly, but we are Chaldeans religiously. We can not have our Church associated with ethnicity or nationality."
  16. Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London” by Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed. The establishment of the Chaldean Church was an attempt to divide the Assyrian Church of the East and the Assyrian nation. One writer shows how this took place: In 1551 Mar Youkhana Solaka, the bishop of Mosul who did not agree with the hereditary succession in one family and wanted the Patriarch to be elected by a council of bishops (such elections were held before the 14th century), went to Rome and he was ordained by the Pope as the Patriarch of Babylon. This Mar Solaka tried to affiliate his group with the Roman Catholic Church. This is the first division perceived to have taken place among Assyrians. Another bishop Mar Yousip joined the Roman Catholic Church and was ordained in 1681 by the Pope as the ‘Chaldean Patriarch’. According to the same source, the ‘Patriarch of Babylon’ and the ‘Chaldean Patriarch’ were joined together under the title ‘the Patriarch of Chaldean over Babylon’. The author asserts: It is a historic fact that both names ‘Patriarch of Babylon’ and ‘Patriarch of Chaldean’ were branded by the Pope of Rome on a portion of the Assyrian Nation, seeking protection from the West, in an attempt to divide the ancient Assyrian Church.”
  17. The Baquba Refugee Camp”, by Brigadier-Gen. H. H. Austin, 1920, London. “It may not be out of place, therefore, to point out that there were exceeding few Roman Catholic Assyrians or “Chaldeans” as they are generally termed when they embraced Rome, among the refugees at Baquba. The very large majority of the Roman Catholic Assyrians in the Mosul vilayet did not join the mountaineers and fight against the Turks; and in consequence were permitted by the Turks to continue to dwell practically unmolested in their homes about Mosul.
  18. The Tragedy of the Assyrians”, by Lt.-Col. R. S. Stafford, 1933, London. “In the 16th century one of the rival candidates to the Patriarchate appealed to the Pope against another. One hundred years of hesitations and refusals to submit completely to Rome followed, and in 1680 Pope Innocent XI appointed the third Patriarchate, Mar Yusuf, who lived at Diarbekir. One hundred years later Mar Elia of the plains, the rival to Mar Shimun of the mountains, submitted to Rome. His followers came to be called Chaldean Uniates, and were recognized by the Turks as a ‘Millet’ in 1845.”
  19. “The Flickering Light of Asia”, by Rev. Joel E. Werda, (Evangelical Church) second edition 1990, Chicago, p. 199 “The Assyrians are better known by their three Ecclesiastical designations representing the three main divisions: (A) The Nestorians … (B) The Chaldeans predominate in the province of Mosul, abounding also in the various locations in lower Mesopotamia down to the Persian gulf, with Mosul as their patriarchal See.” (C) The Jacobites …”
  20. al-Ashoriyoon wa al-mas-ala al-Ashoriya fi al-‘Asir al-Hadeeth (The Assyrians and the Assyrian Question in the Modern Era)”, by K. B. Matviev, 1989, Damascus, p. 35. “On April 9, 1553, Sulaqa was consecrated patriarch of Babylon. The new church united with the Roman Catholic Church as it preserved its own private daily life….the followers of this church were called the Chaldean Assyrians, and Sulaqa returned to Beth Nahren hoping to unite all Assyrians under the Roman Catholic Church.”
  21. Politics and Minorities In The Near East: Reasons for the Explosion” by Laurent Chabry & Annie Chabry, translated from the French by Dr. Thoqan Qarqoot, 1991. Under the sub-Chapter III “The Assyrians (Nestorians and Chaldeans)”, we read: We find the 550,000 Assyrians today mainly in north of Iraq (areas of Mosul, Arbil, Kirkuk) & Baghdad. These Assyrians are descendents of the Assyrians of pre-history who established in the early history a Semitic kingdom in Mesopotamia at the 21st century B.C. The Assyrians are a unique race with a unique national Christian religion and divided today into two parts; The Nestorians, not united with Rome, under "the Assyrian Church of the East", and the Chaldeans, split from the Nestorians, united with Rome, and therefore Catholic, since 1553 and under "The Chaldean Catholic Church".
  22. "The Assyrians, A Historical and Current Reality" by Efrem Yildiz, Ph.D. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. p 10.
  23. Parpola, Simo. "Assyrian Identity in Ancient Times and Today" (PDF). Assyriologist. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. p. 18. "Today, the Assyrian nation largely lives in diaspora, split into rivaling churches and political factions. The fortunes of the people that constitute it have gone different ways over the millennia, and their identities have changed accordingly. Ironically, as members of the Chaldean Catholic Church (established in 1553 but effectively only in 1830), many modern Assyrians originating from central Assyria now identify with "Chaldeans", a term associated with the Syriac language in the 16th century but ultimately derived from the name of the dynasty that destroyed Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire." 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Iraq's Church Bombers vs. Muhammad". Christianity Today. "In the 16th century, a major segment of the Nestorian church united with Rome while retaining its ancient liturgy. They are now called the Chaldean Church, to which most Assyrian Christians belong." 
  25. Rabban, "Chaldean Rite", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. III, pp.427-428
  26. "Chaldean Christians". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 1908-11-01. "The name of former Nestorians now reunited with the Roman Church. Most of the Chaldean population are found in the cities of Kirkuk, Arbil, and Mosul, in the heart of the Tigris valley, in the valley of the Zab, in the mountains of Kurdistan. It is in the former ecclesiastical province of Ator (Assyria) that are now found the most flourishing of the Catholic Chaldean communities. The native population accepts the name of Atoraya-Kaldaya (Assyro-Chaldeans) while in the neo-Syriac vernacular Christians generally are known as Syrians." 
  27. by Mgr. George 'Abdisho' Khayyath to the Abbé Chabot (Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, I, no. 4)
  28. Gaunt, David (2006), Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War 1, p. 24-25
  29. "New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia". 
  30. David L. Phillips (April 2005). "Power-Sharing in Iraq". COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS. p. 20. "Chaldo-Assyrians are a Christian, Aramaic-speaking community with a distinct culture and proud ancient history as an indigenous population of Iraq. Assyrians are concentrated in mostly rural communities on the Nineveh Plain (north and northeast of Mosul). Under Ba’athist rule, Assyrians were forcibly deported from villages and towns where they had resided for centuries in order to diffuse their resistance to Baghdad and break up their ethnic concentration. Today, most Assyrians, including the Patriarch, live overseas. Voting materials never made it to a Christian enclave northwest of Mosul, and Assyrians have protested their single seat in the assembly." 
  31. "Iraqi archbishop death condemned". BBC News. 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2009-12-31.  from BBC News

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Chaldean Christians. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.