A Brief History of the
Chaldean Catholic Church of the East
Apostolic Visitor of Chaldeans in Europe
The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the Oriental Catholic Churches that is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter the Apostle, and therefore also in communion with the rest of the Catholic Church. It was established by the missionary efforts of Judeo-Christian fleeing Jerusalem after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple between 66-70 ad, reaching the Persian Empire and evangelizing among their Jewish relatives and others.
According to tradition, St. Thomas the Apostle, on his way to India, began evangelizing and baptizing the Jews in Western Persia. Then, St. Addai the Apostle (St. Thaddeus) and St. Mari also arrived from Jerusalem to spread the Good News of the Gospel everywhere in Mesopotamian and Western Persia.
These efforts flourished, first among the large communities of Jews who were exiled by the Assyrian and Babylonian armies in Mesopotamia since the 8th Century (bc) and who lived continuously in Babylonia and Adiabene in dozens of cities, town and villages for more that 1000 year. Then, the Good News reached also the indigenous people of Mesopotamia, the descendent of Chaldea and Assyria.
The Chaldean Church began to grow in numbers but simply became known as the “Church of the East” (i.e., the Church in the East of the Roman Empire) from the time of its establishment in the 1st Century. She possesses one of the most ancient apostolic traditions in Christendom. Her liturgical language is Aramaic, her governance is hierarchical, her worship is liturgical and sacramental, and her theology is Mesopotamian. Historically, it has existed mainly in Iraq and the surrounding Countries but after WWI her faithful live in large numbers in Western Europe, North America and Oceanica.
From its beginning until the 5th Century, the Church of the East maintained her communion with the Catholic Church. But due to political circumstances between the two warring Parthian (Persian) and Roman Empires she gradually became separated from the Catholic Church in the West. The political tension was often augmented by the controversies and disputes within the Roman Empire during the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th Centuries (431 to 553 ad). The Church of the East did not participate in any of the Councils or debates and at the same time refused to condemn of person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, thus was unfairly labeled by the rest of the Christians in the West, as the “Nestorian Church”.
The administrative see of the head of the “Church of the East” in Mesopotamia is called the Patriarchate, who is headed by the Patriarch. First, it was established in Seleucia-Ctesiphon (near Babylon). In early seventh century as the Muslim Arabs conquered Mesopotamia, Patriarch Timothy I in ad 780 moved his patriarchate from Seleucia-Ctesiphon to the new capital of Baghdad. By the end of the 10th Century, the Patriarch of the Church of the East was overseeing 15 metropolitan provinces with tens of Archbishops (Metropolitans) and Bishops under his jurisdiction, within Mesopotamia and beyond, namely, in Arabia, Eastern Persia, Malabar (India), Mongolia, Siberia all the way to China.
The first official attempt of the Church of the East to reestablish communion with Rome after centuries of separation was when in 1551 the Chaldean Monk Mar Youhanan (John) Sulaqa was elected by three Church of the East Bishops (of Adiabene, Salamas and Azerbejan) and was sent to Rome to be made a Patriarch for them and reestablish communion. In 1552 he reached there; and in 1553, he made his Catholic Profession of Faith before Pope Julius III and was confirmed a patriarch. Sulaqa returned to Mesopotamia in 1553 but was martyred in 1555 by his Turkish authorities. His Catholic line, however, continued with 5 other patriarchs but the 6th one Shimun XIII in 1662 moved his see to Kochanis (which is a small village in the mountains of Hakkarie) and eventually abandon communion with Rome. Patriarchal succession of this line continues however until today in the Assyrian Church of the East, whose present patriarch is Mar Dinkha IV. He is not in full communion with the Bishop of Rome or with the Orthodox Churches.
The original Patriarchal See of the Chaldean Church of the East moved from Baghdad to the following places for the indicated periods of time: Maraga-Iran (1295-1318), Erbil (1318 to 1332), Karimlis (1332 to 1364), Musil (1364 to 1497) and finally to Rabban Hormiz Monestary near the town of Alqosh in 1504. After the Catholic Group of Mar Youhanan Sulaqa ruptured communion with the Catholic Church, contact between Rome and the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church were renewed and a union was forged with Patriarch Youhanan Hormiz of the Abouna Family, who supplied patriarchs of the Chaldean Church for several hundred of years. Present day successor of the Patriarchate of the Caldean Catholic Church is His Beatitude Cardinal Emanuel III Delly who is the head of all Chaldeans and Catholic Assyrians, and who presently resides in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Chaldean rite is used by the inhabitants of Mesopotamia (Babylonia and Assyria). The Apostle Addai and Mari are credited with establishing the first liturgical stratum for celebrating the Eucharist. The Chaldean Mass is very ancient. It originated around the second century ad. The Aramaic language is used as its principal language. The liturgical cycle was arranged in the 7th century ad during the patriarchate of Esho-yahb Hdhayawa. The cycle reflects the plan of God for the salvation of mankind, from the Annunciation (Christ’s birth) through Parousia (the second coming of Christ.) It is divided into several liturgical seasons.
The Aramaic language, which became the lingua franca in the ancient near East since the 8th century bc was used from Egypt to Turkey and from Mesopotamia to Pakistan. Somewhere between 721 and 500 B.C., the language of the people of Palestine shifted from Hebrew to Aramaic. Therefore, Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic while preaching the message of the Kingdom of God in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Mesopotamia.
The Christians of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon kept the Aramaic language alive in their homes, schools, and churches. In spite of the pressure of the ruling Arabs (since the 7th Century) to speak Arabic, Aramaic is still spoken today by more than one million people in its many dialects, especially among the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syriacs. Many Chaldeans emigrated from their country searching for a better life and hoping for a more peaceful and secure atmosphere. They found this atmosphere in countries of Western Europe, North America and Australia & New Zaeland because these countries guarantee human rights and freedoms. Although they are proud of their Middle Eastern culture and heritage, Chaldeans are also grateful for their new countries in the West.
Chaldeans and Assyrians of the Chaldean Church are Catholics in communion with Rome, but they are not Roman Catholics. They are one with Roman Catholics in faith and in sacraments, but they have different traditions in liturgy and canon law, in accordance to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in which the Chaldean Patriarch is Pater et Caput of the Patriarchal Church (i.e., Sui Iuris).
In the Chaldean Church, there are eight archdioceses and nine dioceses, with twenty bishops. There are around 112 parishes and 3 missions served by about 150 priests, throughout the world. There is 1 religious order of men consisting of approximately 40 monks, and 1 seminary in Baghdad and 1 in San Diego teaching theology and philosophy to more than sixty students and preparing them for the priesthood. There are 3 orders of religious women: in Baghdad, the Chaldean Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Sacred Heart Chaldean Sisters, and in San Diego Chaldean Sisters of the Workers of the Vineyard.
Chaldean faithful are scattered throughout the world. Their numbers is around one million: 450,000 in Iraq, 250,000 in North America, 100,000 in Western Europe, 50,000 in Australia and New Zealand and about 150,000 faithful spread throughout the world.
I would like to inform you that a new site for Chaldeans in Europe, has been established. It is my hope that this site will be instrumental for the unity of the faithful, and for the clergy of our Chaldean church and Beyond.
It will set an example for others to emulate, to demonstrate their testimony of faith through Christ throughout the world, to practice our spirituality, history, identity and liturgy. It is crucial to preserving our culture and traditions.
May God bless you all
Chaldeans in Europe
The Chaldean Catholic Church of the East has in Europe the Church structure (Administration, Parishes & Missions):
1 Apostolic Visitor for Chaldeans in Europe (also the Procurator of the Chaldean Patriarchate to the Holy See) Chorbishop Philip Najim
1 Secretary of the clergy in Europe, Fr. Sami Alrais
5 Commissions ( Supervisory, Fr. Sami Alrais & Fr. Paulus Sati CSsR. Liturgical, Fr.Paul Rabban & Fr.Faris Toma . Educations, Fr.Sabri Anar & Fr.Sizar Sliwa. Media, Fr.Firas Ghazi, Fr. Habib Naufaly, Fr. Paulus Sati CSsR & Fr.Muhannad Al Tawil. Youth, Fr. Sami Alrais, Fr. Paulus Sati CSsR, Fr. Sizar Sliwa, Fr. Raad Washan. Vocation, Fr.Firas Ghazi & Fr.Sami Alrais. Finance, Fr.Sami Alrais ) headed by
Chaldean Priests who reside in Europe.
4 Parishes in France
1 Parish in Greece
1 Parish in Holland
1 Parish in Denmark
2 Parish in Germany
1 Parish in Georgia
1 Missions in Germany
1 Mission in Sweden (plus 3 Centers)
1 Mission in United Kingdom
1 Mission in Belgium ( Plus 2 Centers)
1 Mission in Austria