Chaldean Christians

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Chaldo-Assyrian Christians
(ܟܲܠܕܵܝܹܐ Kaldāye)
Chaldeansoftheprovinceof Mardin.JPG
Chaldean Catholics from Mardin, 19th century.
Regions with significant populations
 Iraq 550,000
 Syria 40,000
 Iran 20,000
 Turkey 8,000
Religions
Syriac Christianity (in union with Rome)
Scriptures
The Bible
Languages
Syriac, Arabic

Chaldean Christians /kælˈdən/ (ܟܠܕܝ̈ܐ), or Chaldo-Assyrians, (not to be confused with the ancient Chaldeans) are ethnically Assyrian[1][2] adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church, originally called The Church of Assyria and Mosul,[3] which was that part of the Assyrian Church of the East which entered communion with the Catholic Church between the 16th and 18th centuries AD.[4]

In addition to their ancient Assyrian homeland in northern Iraq, northeast Syria, northwest Iran and southeast Turkey, (a region roughly corresponding with ancient Assyria) migrant Assyrian or Chaldo-Assyrian Catholic communities are found in the United States, Sweden, Germany, France, Canada, Lebanon, Jordan and Australia.[5]

The terms Chaldean and Chaldo-Assyrian are sometimes used to describe those Assyrians who broke from the Assyrian Church of the East between the 16th and 18th centuries AD, and entered communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Rome initially named this new diocese The Church of Assyria and Mosul in 1553 AD, and only some 128 years later, in 1681 AD, was this changed to The Chaldean Catholic Church, despite none of its adherents having hitherto used the name "Chaldean" to describe themselves or their church, or having originated in the region in the far south of Mesopotamia which had long ago once been Chaldea.

Similarly, Chaldean Catholics should not be confused with the Saint Thomas Christians of India (also called the Chaldean Syrian Church), who are also sometimes known as "Chaldean Christians" or Assyrian Christians.

History[edit]

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.[6] The Hebrew Kasdim does not in fact mean or refer to the Chaldeans, and Ur Kasdim is generally believed by many to have been somewhere in Assyria, north eastern Syria or south eastern 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 denominational, doctrinal and theological term which only arose in the late 17th century AD, and not as an ethnic identity or designation.[7][8][8]

The modern Chaldean Catholics are in fact Assyrians[9] and originated from ancient Assyrian communities living in and indigenous to the north of Iraq/Mesopotamia which was known as Assyria from the 25th century BC until the 7th century AD, rather than the long extinct Chaldeans/Chaldees, who in actuality were 9th century BC migrants from The Levant, and always resided in the far south east of Mesopotamia, adisappeared from history circa 550 BC. However, 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 absolutely no historical, academic, cultural, geographic, archaeological, linguistic or genetic evidence supporting a link to either the Chaldean land or the Chaldean race.

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 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.[10]

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.[11]

Chaldean Catholics in the Middle East[edit]

The 1896 census of the Chaldean Catholics[12] counted 233 parishes and 177 churches or chapels, mainly in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. The Chaldean Catholic clergy numbered 248 priests; they were assisted by the monks of the Congregation of St. Hormizd, who numbered about one hundred. There were about 52 Assyrian Chaldean schools (not counting those conducted by Latin nuns and missionaries). At Mosul there was a patriarchal seminary, distinct from the Chaldean seminary directed by the Dominicans. The total number of Assyrian Chaldean Christians is nearly 1.4 million, 78,000 of whom are in the Diocese of Mosul.

The current 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 in the north, and reserves for himself the direct administration of this diocese and that of Baghdad.

There are five archbishops (resident respectively at Basra, Diyarbakır, Kirkuk, Salmas and Urmia) and seven bishops. Eight patriarchal vicars govern the small Assyrian Chaldean communities dispersed throughout Turkey and Iran. The Chaldean clergy, especially the monks of Rabban Hormizd Monastery, have established some missionary stations in the mountain districts dominated by The Assyrian Church of the East. Three dioceses are in Iran, the others in Turkey.

The liturgical language of the Chaldean Catholic Church is Syriac, a Neo-Aramaic dialect originating in Assyria during the Parthian Empire. The liturgy of the Chaldean Church is written in the Syriac alphabet.

The literary revival in the early 20th century was mostly due to the Lazarist Pere Bedjan, an ethnic Assyrian Chaldean Catholic from northwestern Iran. He popularized the ancient chronicles, the lives of Assyrian saints and martyrs, and even works of the ancient Assyrian doctors among Assyrians of all denominations, including Chaldean Catholics, Orthodox Christians and the Assyrian Church.[13]

In March 2008, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped, and found dead two weeks later. Pope Benedict XVI condemned his death. Moderate Sunni and Shia Muslims also expressed their condemnation.[14]

Chaldean Catholics today number approximately 550,000 of Iraq's estimated 800,000 Assyrian Christians, with smaller numbers found among the Assyrian Christian communities of northeast Syria, southeast Turkey, northwest Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Armenia.[4] Perhaps the best known Iraqi Chaldean Catholic is former Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz (real name Michael Youhanna).[4]

Hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians of all denominations have left Iraq since the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003. At least 20,000 of them have fled through Lebanon to seek resettlement in Europe and the US.[15]

The situation of the Chaldo-Assyrian community in Iraq has been described as very difficult. Their members and churches are frequently threatened by both religiously and ethnically motivated attacks by Arab Sunni and Shia Muslim fundamentalists, Kurdish nationalist extremists and criminal gangs. As political changes sweep through many Arab nations, the ethnic Assyrian minorities in northeast Syria, northwest Iran and southeast Turkey have also expressed concern.[16]

Predominantly Chaldean Catholic towns in northern Iraq[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mar Raphael J Bidawid. The Assyrian Star. September–October, 1974:5
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ George V. Yana (Bebla), "Myth vs. Reality" JAA Studies, Vol. XIV, No. 1, 2000 p. 80
  4. ^ a b c BBC NEWS (March 13, 2008). "Who are the Chaldean Christians?". BBC NEWS. Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  5. ^ Edmund Ghareeb, Beth Dougherty (2004). Historical Dictionary of Iraq. Scarecrow Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-8108-4330-1. 
  6. ^ Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 2001: Where Was Abraham's Ur? by Allan R. Millard
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ a b http://conference.osu.eu/globalization/publ/08-bohac.pdf
  9. ^ Nisan, M. 2002. Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle for Self Expression .Jefferson: McFarland & Company. Jump up ^ http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14225.html
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Mar Raphael J Bidawid. The Assyrian Star. September–October, 1974:5.
  12. ^ Mgr. George 'Abdisho' Khayyath to the Abbé Chabot (Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, I, no. 4)
  13. ^ "New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia". 
  14. ^ "Iraqi archbishop death condemned". BBC News. 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2009-12-31.  from BBC News
  15. ^ Martin Chulov (2010) ”Christian exodus from Iraq gathers pace”The Guardian, retrieved June 12, 2012
  16. ^ R. Thelen (2008) Daily Star, Lebanon retrieved June 12, 2012

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

External links[edit]