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"Chaldean people" redirects here. For the ancient people, see Chaldea, Babylonia.
Chaldean Christians [1]
(ܟܠܕܝܐ-ܡܫܝܚܝܐ Keldaya-Msheehaya)
(Suraye/Athuraye ܐ݇܏ܣܘܪܝܐ/ܐܬܘܪܝܐ)
Chaldeansoftheprovinceof Mardin.JPG
Chaldean Catholics from Mardin, 19th century.
Total population
2.5 million
Regions with significant populations
 Iraq 1 million
 Syria [citation needed]
 Iran [citation needed]
 Turkey [citation needed]
Syriac Christianity (in union with Rome)
The Bible
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic

The 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 people belong.[2][3][4][5][6]

Today the group identifies itself as Sūrāyā (Syrian) in singular and Sūrāyē in plural [7] 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.

They are settled primarily in Iraq, with smaller communities in Turkey, Syria and Iran, for the most part speaking the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic language. A formerly Assyrian Church of the East denomination, they were united with the Roman Catholic Church in 1553.[8][9] The Chaldean Catholic Church was established, and its first patriarch was proclaimed patriarch of "Mosul and Athur" (Nineveh and Assyria) on Feb. 20, 1553 by Pope Julius III.[10]

Chaldean Catholics have no direct or absolute lineage with the Neo-Babylonian Empire "Chaldeans", but were designated with the name Chaldean only in the 16th century when they united with the Catholic Church to distinguish from the adherents of the Assyrian Church of the East.[9][11]

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 the original Chaldean Diocese, apart from Baghdad, there are now very few adherents of this rite, most of the Chaldean Catholic 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, in effect, the area of Assyria. 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 territory now occupied by these Chaldean Catholics 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 Chaldean Catholics 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 Iraq and Turkey


Present status

A proposed flag for the Chaldean people.

The 1896 Statistics of the Chaldean Catholics[12] counted 233 parishes and 177 churches or chapels. The Chaldean Catholic 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 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 Assyrian Church of the East. 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.[13] 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 Assyrian & Nestorian Churches, corrected in the sense of Catholic orthodoxy. Unfortunately, without doctrinal necessity, they have in some places been made to conform with Latin usage. The liturgy of the Assyrian Church is purely in Aramaic/Assyrian, and never in Arabic.

The literary revival in the early 20th century was mostly due to the Lazarist, Pere Bedjan, a Persian Assyrian -Chaldean, who devoted much industry and learning to popularizing among his people, both Catholics, Orthodox and Assyrian Church, their ancient chronicles, the lives of Assyrian saints and martyrs, even works of the ancient Assyrian doctors.[14]

Current situation

Today, Chaldeans suffer ethnic and religious discrimination in Iraq and many were deported from the Nineveh plains under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist rule.[15]

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.[16]

Chaldeans today number approximately 800,000 to 1,200,000 in Iraq, totalling 3% to 5% of the population. They are Iraq's third largest ethnic group.

See also


  1. ^ Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. 2002. p. 148. ISBN 0838639437. OCLC 47054791.,M1. 
  2. ^ Assyrian people
  3. ^ “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.”
  4. ^ “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 Eastern Rite (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 Assyrian Church of the East there are the Chaldean Catholics, a majority who came out from the Assyrian Church and are connected with the Catholic Church in Rome.” (a translation from Arabic)
  5. ^ “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.”
  6. ^ “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.”
  7. ^ "The Assyrians, A Historical and Current Reality" by Efrem Yildiz, Ph.D. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. p 10.
  8. ^ 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), some 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." 
  9. ^ a b "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." 
  10. ^ Rabban, "Chaldean Rite", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. III, pp.427-428
  11. ^ "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 Assyrians." 
  12. ^ by Mgr. George 'Abdisho' Khayyath to the Abbé Chabot (Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, I, no. 4)
  13. ^ Gaunt, David (2006), Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War 1, p. 24-25
  14. ^ "New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia". 
  15. ^ 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." 
  16. ^ "Iraqi archbishop death condemned". BBC News. 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2009-12-31.  from BBC News

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.

External links

Simple English

Chaldean Christians (Neo-Aramaic: ܟܲܠܕܵܝܹܐ Keldayee, Arabic: الكلدانيون) are adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church.[1] Chaldeans are the largest Christian community in Iraq,[2] estimated at between 400,000–600,000.[2] Chaldeans have generally been well integrated into Iraqi society.[2] They have not actively sought establishment of a separate state.[2] Many of their members are businessmen and technocrats, and a few have held high government positions.[2] Chaldeans have always been an important part of Iraqi society. In addition to Iraq, migrant Chaldean communities are found in the United States, Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon.[2]


  1. BBC NEWS (March 13, 2008). "Who are the Chaldean Christians?". BBC NEWS. Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Edmund Ghareeb, Beth Dougherty (2004). Historical Dictionary of Iraq. Scarecrow Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780810843301. 


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