chaldean church in lebanon

a brief history on the chaldean eparchy in beirut

The Eastern Chaldean Church belongs to the Catholic Church. Our Church is proud to speak the Syriac language with its oriental accent that descends from the Aramaic language, the language of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to Him Glory. The children of the Chaldean Church are currently spread in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Lebanon, in addition to the Chaldeans located in Europe, America, Australia, Egypt and Jordan.

His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, heads currently the Chaldean Church in the world with the assistance of the members of the Holy Synod.

With reference to historical documents, the Chaldean’s presence in Lebanon dates back to circa 1869. Father Louis Akhras was the first appointed Chaldean priest in Lebanon in 1882. His appointment was decided when the attention of the Thrice-Blessed Patriarch Yusuf Audo was drawn to the Chaldeans of Lebanon during his travel to Rome to participate in the sessions of the first Vatican Council. He passed by Beirut and checked the conditions of the Chaldean families.

After the First World War outbreak placed its burdens on Turkey and its surroundings, and upon the tragic massacres that targeted the lives of countless Christians, the immigration wave to Lebanon increased. In 1895, Priest Youssef Younan Al-Tawil was appointed first Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar to Lebanon.

In 1906, Patriarch Youssef Emmanuel II Toma bought a land in the Rmeil region where the headquarters of the Chaldeans in Lebanon will be erected. At this stage, Priest Mansour Kyriakos, who studied in the Seminary of Ghazir and was ordained priest in 1909, served the Chaldean community in Lebanon. He was succeeded, in 1927, by Priest Joseph Tufenkji who was the first churchman to construct a Chaldean church in the capital Beirut[1].

In 1930, the church’s construction bearing the name of Saint Theresa* started in the Ras al-Nabaa area. Priest Joseph Naayem served this church and opened an embroidery workshop, in its vicinities in 1924 under the name of the “Chaldean National Industrial Factory in Beirut” in Zokak El-Blat. The aim of this workshop was to employ female immigrants and orphans and teaching them the origins of sewing, photography and oriental artefacts.

Bishops of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon

For the service of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon a few distinguished bishops succeeded, the first of whom was Bishop Gabriel Naamo in 1939 who served the sons of the Church with all honesty and dedication. While in office, the Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut became independent from Syria in 1957.

In 1964, Bishop Gabriel Ganni assumed the office of the Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut and was succeeded by Bishop Raphael I Bidawid in 1966.

We would like to mention here that Bishop Bidawid brought the Chaldean Sisters, Daughters of Mary Immaculate to Lebanon to spread their mission, where they still are.

During this period, a number of distinguished fathers served the eparchy including Father Emmanuel Rammo, Father Augustine Sadiq, Monsignor Louis Al-Dirani[2], and Monsignor Michel Kassarji. At this stage, the Babylon Magazine and the Babylon Centre for Chaldean and Oriental Studies were established.

In 1989, Bishop Bidawid became Patriarch of the Chaldeans until his death in 2003. The cemetery of Archangel Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Beirut embraces his pure remains. Bishop Youssef Thomas succeeded Patriarch Raphael Bidawid as head of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon in 1996 until his death in 2001. From that year until our current day, Bishop Michel Kassarji serves the Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut.

Archangel Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Baabda – Brasilia

The Thrice-Blessed Bishop Raphael Bidawid laid the foundation for the Archangel Raphael Chaldean Cathedral and the Eparchy of Baabda – Brasilia. Works began in 1980 and were completed in 1985. This church came as a sign of beauty and taste in architecture. With the splendor of its iconographical glass, the uniqueness of its bells of various tones and the majesty of its two leading Babylonian constellations, the Church preserved the historical originality of the Babylonian heritage.

The Eparchy

It is located next to the Archangel Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Baabda – Brasilia. It consists of six floors and contains the Eparchy, the Spiritual Courts, the clergy offices, the offices of the Supreme Council, the Charitable Association, the Chaldean Youth League, and the residence of the pastor of the eparchy and priests.

The locations of the Chaldeans

Today, in addition to Beirut, the Chaldeans are present in various Lebanese regions, especially in Mount Lebanon, Zahle, Tripoli, Metn and Keserwan.

Priests of the Eparchy

A number of distinguished priests succeeded in serving this eparchy. We had already mentioned some of them, while we do also want to mention the fathers Augustine Jazrawi, Maher Malko, Hani Issa, Joseph Malkoun, Francis Al-Raheb, Thomas Bahnam, Firas Dardar, Roni Hanna, the late Father Denha Youssef, Father Aisen Ilya and the late evangelical deacon George Shamoun. His Beatitude, Bishop Michel Kassarji, Monsignor Raphael Traboulsi, Episcopal Vicar, and Father Youssef Khaled serve currently the Eparchy,

The High Council of the Chaldean Community in Lebanon, the Chaldean Charitable Society and the Chaldean Youth League, in addition to the subdeacons, Raphael Koupaly, Joseph Isho, and George Semaan Hanawi assist the clergy in the service of the eparchy.

Institutions and Councils of the Eparchy

The Eparchy was able, when Bishop Kassarji assumed office, to complete the project of the Cemetery of the sect in the Ain Saadeh region. This project was completed with the construction of the Resurrection Church and its salon to receive mourners, the construction of a number of new tombs and the preparation of a road leading to the project.

The Eparchy was also responsible for constructing and equipping Saint Michel Medical Center in Sad Al-Baouchrieh region, which opened its doors in 2011. This unique project offers beneficiaries (whose number reaches about twenty thousand annually) health care services through a medical staff consisting of thirty doctors in addition to a pharmacy, a laboratory and an educational and awareness lecture hall.

The mission of the Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut continues today with the grace of God, the protection of the Virgin Mary, the intercession of Archangel Raphael, and the strength of your prayers, support, encouragement, and benevolent initiatives, to continue the message of the Lord Jesus, glorifying God and sanctifying souls.

In this regard, Our Lady of the Divine Mercy Center was established in Sad El-Baouchrieh in 2015 during the year of mercy announced by His Holiness Pope Francis. This center, which includes a large number of employees, receives refugee and expatriate families in Lebanon to provide them with food, health, social and spiritual assistance. The center assists its beneficiaries in cooperation with the two parishes of Mar Elias – Dekwaneh and Mar Youssef – Al-Rawda, which are serving the Chaldean Iraqi refugees under the supervision of Father Youssef Khaled Mikha.

In addition to all of his accomplishments since taking office in the Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut in 2001, Bishop Michel Kassarji established Saint Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Cultural and Educational Center near Our Lady of Divine Mercy Center in Sad El-Baouchrieh.

The center receives more than two hundred Iraqi and Syrian students, and provides them, with a high-level educational staff, the correct upbringing through the Lebanese educational curriculum; under the supervision of a responsible sister from the Chaldean Daughters of Mary, Sister Souad Faraj Hanna, and in coordination with the director of Our Lady of Mercy divine Center Deacon Raphael Koupaly.

In light of developing the mission of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon at the educational level, the pastor of the Eparchy, His Beatitude Bishop Michel Kassarji has established a semi-free school in the town of “Kamid al-Laouz” in the Bekaa region under the name of “Chaldean School of Our Lady of Perpetual Help”. The Bishop had showed great interest in the sons of the community living in these places, especially in the city of Zahle, where he seeks to reunite them, build them a church and ordain a priest to serve their spiritual affairs.

In fact, the work of the clergy is not complete, as we have mentioned, without the support of the lay believers. We would like to note here that Bishop Kassarji has sought to reactivate the role of the Chaldean Supreme Council in Lebanon. The council was established in the 1950’s. Its internal constitution has been re-activated and modified twice in 1984 and at the end of 2017. The council represents all members of the Church in Lebanon, regardless of their classes[3] so that the lay people continue supporting the Head of the Eparchy in its administration and raising its voice on political and sectarian platforms in Lebanon and abroad, if necessary.

The Chaldean Charitable Society, which is the social hand of the Eparchy, has sought since its establishment in 1936 to support the church in serving the needy Lebanese, Syrians and Iraqis people. Its work started upon being apprised by the Lebanese government on April 20, 1936 under the number 823.

The Chaldean Youth League, established in 1958, tries along with the Chaldean Supreme Council in Lebanon, to carry out a comprehensive census of the members of the community to find out their conditions and urge them to participate in the church life on the liturgical and recreational level. Their participation will enhance their sense of belonging to the single house that rejoices in the gathering of its children in its warm confines.

Since our beloved Bishop Michel Kassarji took office, the episcopal departments were reorganized, especially the Vicariate, the Secretariat, the Eparchy’s Economic Council and the Spiritual Court in all its degrees. He also re-launched the Babylon Center for Chaldean and Oriental Studies. The ecclesiastical services were organized in elegant books worthy of such noble rituals. Archangel Raphael Monastery for Chaldean Sisters, Daughters of Mary Immaculate was established in the area of ​​Ain Saadeh. The aim of this monastery is to witness the Chaldean monastic origins and to become a platform for the guidance of the believers and a beacon of piety and benevolence.

The Chaldean Eparchy of Beirut honors Archangel Raphael, its patron, asks for the prayers of her children, and requires their support on all levels to complete its spiritual, educational, social and cultural mission, in glorification of God and in the service of man … every human being!

[1] This cathedral was constructed under the patronage of the Chaldean Patriarchate, the efforts of Priest Joseph Tufenkji and Father Chanteur, head of the Jesuit mission in Lebanon at that time, the support of the Government of France and the support of His Holiness the Roman Pontiff, the Blessed Pius XI.

[2] Monsignor Louis Al-Dirani was born in Iraq and received the ordained priesthood on June 7, 1964 in his country. After two years of service, he moved to Beirut and served in the eparchy as a parish priest and a vicar for thirty years before moving to Canada as an emeritus priest for 24 years.

[3] It is important to mention that the Apostolic Movements operating in the Eparchy are, in addition to what was mentioned in the text above; St. Thomas’s Choir at Archangel Raphael Cathedral, the Good Shepherd Youth, St. Thomas the Apostle Youth, the Parish of Saint Joseph Choir, the Women of the Capella Saint Joseph, the “Gathering Union”, the Christian Education and Preparation Teams For the first Communion, and the Chaldean Solidarity Youth.