a brief history on the eastern chaldean church
The Chaldean Catholic Church, also known as the Chaldean Church of Babylon, is a church that was established in Iraq. According to traditions, the Gospel of Salvation has reached it through Saint Thomas the Apostle and his two disciples, Addai and Mari. The Chaldean Church speaks the Syriac language with its oriental accent that descends from the Aramaic language, the language of Jesus Christ.
The Chaldean Church shares roots with the Assyrian Church, as both churches composed the “The Church of the East” before the fifteenth century.
The Chaldean Church split from the Assyrian Church of the East in 1552 after they had lived together the bitterness of another division that struck Christianity in 431 during the Council of Ephesus.
The Chaldean section of the Church of the East elected the monk Yohannan Sulaqa, who was the abbot of Rabban Hormizd Monastry, as Patriarch of the Chaldean Church. Accordingly, he travelled to the Holy See and pledged before him to formally join the Roman Catholic Church. On March 20,1552, Pope Julius III decided to declare Yohanna Solaq a Patriarch. On April 9th of the same year, he was ordained a bishop and assumed office. Meanwhile, the Church of the East has known two patriarchs, one of whom is based in the city of Al-Qosh in northern Iraq and the other patriarch was papal and based in Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey.
The history of the Chaldean Church of the East is replete with persecution and calamities, despite being the most widespread church in the early centuries of Christianity, as it reached Iraq, India and China … However, the opposing campaigns that were launched against its sons by the polytheists and then the Muslims … ending it with what happened in Iraq since 2003, the Chaldean Church of the East has rightly been called the Church of the Martyrs.
After unraveled disturbances between the Chaldean section and the Church of Rome in 1662, the full fellowship with the Holy See was not completed until the year 1830 when Pope Pius VIII granted the Chaldean Patriarch the title of Patriarch of Babylon to the Chaldeans.
Both Churches have always been in a constant yearning for this union, because they have a common history and are distinguished by one rite, one language, one convoy of martyrs, common saints and one geography.
In this regard, we shall refer the joint Christological declaration issued by the Catholic and Assyrian churches, in the person of Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV in Rome, on November 22nd, 1994.
This document is an essential stage in the modern history of the Chaldean Church. In this joint declaration of faith, the text states: “We confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God born of the Father before all ages which, in the fullness of times, came down from heaven and became a man for our salvation. The Word of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, was embodied by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the body of Virgin Mary”. […] “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Lord of righteousness and Man of righteousness. He is perfect in his Divinity and his Humanity. He equals the Father in essence and equals us except for the sins. His Divinity and Humanity are united in one person without confusion, change, division, nor separation” (…) The declaration declares further: “The word of God born of the Father before all ages, without any beginning according to his divinity, was born from a mother in recent times, without a father, according to his humanity. This humanity to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary gave life to is, since the beginning of time immemorial, the humanity of the Son of God himself.
For this reason, the Assyrian Church of the East addresses its prayers to Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ, our God and Savior. In light of this same faith, the Catholic tradition turns to Virgin Mary as the Mother of God and is also “the Mother of Christ”.”
The joint declaration adds: “Whatever our Christological differences are, we find ourselves today united in confessing one faith in the Son of God who became a human being so that humans become children of God with His grace. From now on, we want to witness together this faith through who is the way, the truth and the life so that we can announce it in an appropriate way to let the world believes in the Gospel of Salvation.”
“The Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church are two sister churches, but full union requires full unity regarding the content of faith, the sacraments, and the foundation of the church.” Nevertheless, the document adds, “the deep spiritual union in faith and mutual trust gives us the ability to crystallize a method that enables us to testify together to preach the Gospel and to coordinate in specific pastoral conditions, especially in the field of Christian education and the education of priests”.
Thus, the Eastern particularism of the Chaldean Church was not only a desire to arrive at a form of shared faith that would sign on its Assyrian content as well … rather it was a long series of attempts to preserve the eastern performance of church policy and to maintain true Eastern ecclesiology. These initiatives were manifested through the positions of the Chaldean Patriarchs and Bishops throughout history. … especially in the first Vatican Council and the issue of the well-being and the endeavor to live various kinds of ecumenical life on several levels!
Today, His Beatitude the Patriarch Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Saco, heads the Chaldean Church in the world and is assisted by members of the Holy Synod, the venerable bishops, trying, with His Beatitude, to take care of the herd of Christ entrusted to him. Their efforts increased during the very difficult circumstances that witnessed the emptying of Iraq and the Arab Middle East from its Christians under the machine of violence and death that messes with humans and stone and still transforms our blessed places into raging arenas that smells of death and destruction and smells of hatred, fragmentation and hateful racism.
Our prayer is that our Chaldean Church, with its glorious history and its great men … remain a beacon… a shiny pearl and a unique light that testifies to the victorious and risen Christ.
 Refer to “History of the Chaldean Church” a book written by His Beatitude Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and translated into Arabic by Priest Solomon Sayegh: Mosul, 1939: “Contrary to the rules and regulations of the Church, the Nestorian Patriarchy (that is, the patriarchy) has fallen into a legacy that the nephew and the cousin should inherit the uncle since the year 1450 according to a decree promulgated by the Patriarch Shem’on IV. However, upon the death of Shem’on VII known as Ibn Mama in 1551, many Nestorian people refused to accept Danha, his nephew, as his successor on the throne in the name of Shem’on VIII. A meeting was convened in Mosul gathering members of the clergy and the believers under the leadership of three bishops aiming to unite with the Holy See. The votes had chosen Sulaqa Bin Daniel, who was forty years old and the head of the Rabban Hormizd Monastry. Upon this meeting, seventy members accompanied him to Jerusalem with letters of recommendations and letters from the Guardian of the Holy Land. At the time, he was the representative of the Holy See in the East. Three seculars were appointed to accompany Sulaqa with two letters, one of which is from the members of the Mosul meeting and the other one is from the seventy who accompanied him to Jerusalem. When Solaka arrived in Rome on November 18, 1552, only one of his three companions remained with him. The issue was extended by Cardinal Maffeo in the Council of Cardinals held on February 18, 1553, and it was reconsidered on the 20th of it. On this same day, Solaqa recited his Catholic faith. Finally, He received his Pallium in the Vatican on April 28 of the same year. Before returning to the East, he asked the Great Pontiff to send two competent messengers with him to help him spread the Catholic faith among his people. The Pope chose two Dominican monks from Malatya because of their Arabic language, Ambrosius and Buttigieg. The latter was finally ordained an honorary bishop on Avar on 5 May 1553 while the other one was Antonan de Zahra, one of his relatives. Therefore, the new patriarch walked through Venice to Constantinople then to Anatolia. He took residency in Diyarbakir upon his arrival on November 12, 1553.
However, the party of Shem’on Danha tricked him to get rid of him until he was called by Pasha Amid (Diyarbakir) who imprisoned him. After forty days of incarceration, he died a hidden martyr at the beginning of the year 1555.
 Refer to “Assyrians, Chaldeans, or the Church of Iraq,” Naji Naaman, Al-Bolisiya Library, Jounieh, 2005: The first schism occurred in 325 between the two churches after Arius appeared and taught that Christ was not equal to God the Father in the deity, but rather a human being adopted by God. All the archbishops and bishops in the church of that time were called to a meeting in the city of Nicaea to clarify the Christian faith in opposition to the teachings of Arianism. Arius was condemned.
 The Council of Ephesus, the third of the Ecumenical Councils, was held in Ephesus in 431 in which Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was condemned because of his teachings that focused on the perfect human nature of Christ to the extent of separating it from the divine nature, his rejection of the title of “Mother of God” and his adoption of the phrase “Mary” or “the mother of Christ.” The second schism between both churches occurred.
 The Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon currently consists of the following eparchies: The Chaldean Eparchy of Baghdad, the Patriarchate: His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, assisted by Bishops: 1- Mar Basselius Yaldo 2- Mar Robert Gerges, 3- Mar Shlemon Warduni, Honorary. The Chaldean Eparchy of Al-Basra and the South: His Beatitude Bishop Habib Hermez Nawfali. The Eparchy of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah: His Beatitude Bishop Youssef Tuma Morkos. The Eparchy of Erbil: His Beatitude Bishop Bashar Matta Warda. The Eparchy of Mosul: His Beatitude Bishop Mikhael Najib. The Eparchy of Al-Qosh: His Beatitude Mikha Maqdissi. The Eparchy of Aqra which consist of four villages and currently presided by: Father Farid Kina assisted by Father Fares Yako. The Eparchy of Zakho and Amadiyah: His Beatitude Bishop Rabban Al-Qas. The Eparchy of Urmia and Salmas (Iran): His Beatitude Bishop Thomas Mirm. The Eparchy of Tehran (Iran): His Beatitude Bishop Ramzi Karmo. The Eparchy of Diyarbakir (Turkey) managed by: Bishop François Yakan and Father Ramzi Hermez. The Eparchy of Beirut- Lebanon: His Beatitude Bishop Michel Kassarji. The Eparchy of Aleppo – Syria: His Beatitude Bishop Antoine Audou. The Eparchy of Cairo – Egypt: Bishop Boulos Satti. The Eparchy of Mar Edde – Canada: His Beatitude Bishop Pawai Souro. The Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle – Eastern the United States of America: His Beatitude Bishop Francis Qalabat. The Eparchy of Peter and Paul the Apostle – Western United States of America: His Beatitude Bishop Emmanuel Shlita. The Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle – Australia and New Zealand – His Beatitude Bishop Emil Nuna – The Chaldean Mission for Europe, His Beatitude Bishop Saad Sirob Hanna. The Chaldean Patriarchal Vicariate in Jordan: Father Zed Adel Hababa. The occupied Lands: The Vicar for Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Kassarji. The Chaldean Church has established a large number of educational, hospital, apostolic, social, and developmental institutions, wherever its children have spread, despite the displacement of its believers due to the recent Iraq war and the scourges that affected stone and people.
 Mar Louis Sako was born in the city of Zakho – Satbalani in 1949. He entered the Beloved Mar Joseph Institute in Mosul in 1963. He was ordained a priest to the Chaldean Eparchy in Mosul on May 1st, 1974. He obtained his Ph.D. in Church Fathers from Rome in 1983, and a master’s degree in Islamic jurisprudence in 1984. He later obtained a doctorate in the history of ancient Iraq from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1986. He served in the Church of Our Lady of Help in Mosul for 11 years. He was appointed director of the Patriarchal Priestly Institute in Baghdad from 1997 to 2001 and was a professor at the Pontifical College of Babylon. He was consecrated bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Kirkuk on November 14, 2003. He succeeded Cardinal Mar Emmanuel Delle on February 1, 2013. Pope Francis granted Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Saco Cardinalship on May 20, 2018 and was installed in the Cardinal rank on June 29, 2018.
Mar Louis has been the Pontifical Council’s Adviser for Interfaith Dialogue since February 22, 2019. He more than two hundred publications, articles and researches in local and international magazines. He has written more than 20 books, in addition to giving numerous lectures in various religious and cultural forums and in the theological courses in Mosul that he conducted for a long time. He participated in several forums and international conferences, was a member of the Syriac Commission in the Iraqi Academy of Science, and a member of the editorial staff of the “Bin Nahrain” magazine and the “Najm al-Mashriq” magazine. He also taught at Maadi College of Theology – Cairo 1988. He is also a member of the Pro-Orient (for the East) Foundation, based in Austria.
Patriarch Cardinal Mar Louis Saco won a number of honors, including the Medal of Defense of Faith from Italy, the Order of the Pax Christi International Foundation and the Order of St. Stephen on Human Rights from Germany. Patriarch Louis speaks Aramaic, Arabic, Italian, French and German.
The Chaldean Patriarchate Address: Al-Mansour, Al-Naqabat Street, opposite to the Ministry of Electricity, PO Box: 6122
Phone: (00964) 7701300922
Email address: [email protected]
Website address: www.saint-adday.com
The Chaldean Church is very much concerned with the brutal massacres waged by the forces of darkness in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, in addition to the sister churches, namely the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church, the Syriac Catholic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, in addition to the Byzantine Tradition Churches.
Almost two hundred thousand martyrs, clerics and laity, fell defending their faith in the one who rose from the death on the third day. They wrote with their fragrant blood the history of this honorable East, from which flows the aroma of martyrdom, filling the whole universe with the scent of Christ, which revitalized our world plunged into the slumber of darkness and death.
The centenary of the painful Seferberlik massacres is mixed with tangled emotions, so while we regret the martyrdom of our forefathers, we are proud of their exploits as heroes of the faith who deserve blessedness and wreaths of eternity and glory … And then we also mourn because history is repeating itself with the tragedy of Iraq and Syria… The sad Calvary of the East that waits anxiously for the dawn of the third day
The deepest feeling that this historical page written with a blood, left for us, is the desire to cling to faith in the crucified Christ despite the storms and calamities.
The Chaldean Church is the “Church of the Martyrs”. Its evangelizer, Saint Thomas the Apostle, its Patriarchs John Sulaqa and Shimoun Barsabae, all fell martyrs in defense of their belief in the Lord Jesus.
In the Seferberlik massacres caravan of martyrs of 1915, we must mention Father Hanna Shuha, Archbishop Addaï Sheer, Bishops Yaqoub Auraha, Thomas Audo and Thomas Rasho, Archbishop Mar Israel Audo, Bishops Suleiman Sabbagh, Petrus Aziz and Awgin Manna. As well as the thousands of clerics and laity who received the crown of martyrdom and are interceding with us today in the heavenly kingdom.
The Seferberlik massacres were not only an erasure of the Christian human element, but also of historical monuments… as these precious monasteries, with their spiritual and historical treasures, have become ruined and wasted, and major religious, cultural and civilizational monuments have disappeared in Nisibis, Mount Izla. Seert, Van, Urmia, Salmas, Diyarbakir, Maifarqin, Urhay, and Mardin… leaving behind rubbles.
His Holiness Pope Francis recognized the genocide that included the Armenian, Syriac, Assyrian, and Chaldean people… As all of them were subjected to displacement, torture and murder in close geographical locations between the years 1915 and 1918.
This raises in our hearts a burning desire to bear witness together to the Christ in whom we all believe as God and Savior. An “ecumenism of martyrdom” brings together the children of these churches, so by the Holy Spirit blowing in their lives, they unite their efforts with the efforts of the children of other churches, which are also proud of their martyrs, so that we all continue to raise the banner of love, reconciliation, goodwill and acceptance of all kinds of differences. From this land that we participated in building and are an integral part of its people and in it we are steadfast!
icon of the chaldean martyrs
This icon represents all sectors of clerical and civil society that were subjected to the brutal massacres called “Seferberlik” during the years 1914-1918.
The blue background of the icon indicates the sky, indicating that the martyrs have reached the upper quarter in the heavenly Jerusalem, where lies the desired paradise… in a place of greenness and rest. This is what the green trees symbolize, the sign of renewed life. At the top of the icon, we see the Lord Jesus Christ on a light cloud, blessing with his right hand and with his left, crowning the martyrs with the wreaths of glory and victory.
Surrounding the Lord Jesus are the Mother of God and Saint Thomas the Apostle who evangelized the Church of the East. The Virgin Mary is handing the Holy Girdle, which surrounded her immaculate body receptor of God, according to what the sacred tradition tells, to the Apostle Thomas.
The tradition informs us that Saint Thomas came, like the rest of the apostles, to the village of Gethsemane, carried by clouds, when he got by a divine inspiration the news of the dormition of Our Lady. Just as Thomas was late to join the group of disciples on the eve of Judgment Day, he was also late in reaching the Holy Land for the funeral of the Mother of Life. When our saint arrived, the apostles took him to the shrine of the Virgin and they found it empty, except for the smells of incense and the aroma of perfume. Then when Thomas was returning to India to complete the mission of evangelization, the Virgin appeared in the sky and delivered to him the Holy Girdle.
In the center of the icon, a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit who emanated from the heart of the Father of Lights on the martyrs.
In the foreground of the icon is a patriarch, a bishop, priests, deacons, deaconesses, virgins, nuns, and widows… Behind them is a large group of men, women, boys, girls, juveniles, and elderly people, who represent with their costumes the various villages and towns in Mesopotamia, especially the ones that witnessed the horrific massacres.
This group of personalities represents all the martyrs in the Chaldean Church of the East and does not mean specific persons… because the names are countless and the numbers exceed two hundred thousand clerics and lay martyrs. They died at the altar of martyrdom, defending their faith and clinging to their cross, the instrument of their redemption and the symbol of their victory.
Catholicos Aram I Keshishian, Patriarch of the Armenian Orthodox House of Cilicia, and Bishop Michel Kassarji, Primate of the Chaldean Community in Lebanon, blessed this unique icon on the first centenary of the “Seferberlik” massacres, during the huge celebration at the Cathedral of Archangel Raphael on Saturday 24/10/2015 at 6:30 pm.