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Christians of Iraq

The Roman Catholic Church Role in Promoting
Chaldean identity for the Catholic Assyrians
When Every Church considers itself a Nation

William M. Warda
Revised May 09

Dr. Edward Y. Odisho Ph.D., Professor Northeastern Illinois University, in an article titled "Political and Nationalist Lessons in the Aftermath of Iraqi Elections" published in Zinda Magazine correctly attributed lack of our people's political success in Iraq to disunity among various factions. However he wrongly believes that our factional conflicts are caused by uncertainty of our historical identity therefore he writes:

"..we should cease linking the Assyrians of today exclusively with the ancient Assyrian genealogy, or tracing the Chaldeans of today exclusively back to the ancient Babylonian genealogy and ascribing the Suryanis of today exclusively to the ancient Aramean states. After all, the Assyrian and the Babylonian empires and the Aramean states were some of the most ethnically diversified entities." he later writes; "If Chaldeans Assyrians Suryanis seek a pragmatic unity rather than a sentimental or even emotional one, they better claim their identity as Beth Nahrainians (Mesopotamian) first and Assyrian, Chaldean or Aramean second."(1)

To encourage our brethren who define themselves as Chaldean or Aramean to work with the rest for their common interest in Iraq and elsewhere there is a tendency to rewrite history to justify their presumed none Assyrian identity . While the compound name 'ChaldoAssyrian' or variations thereof may motivate some of our wayward brethren to do so trying to appease them by faking history is not only wrong, creates confusion and undermines our true identity. As far as everyone knows the land of the ancient Chaldeans is way down in southern Mesopotamia and the ancient Arameans lived predominantly in Syria, yet those who currently describe themselves as ethnically Chaldean and Aramean in Iraq have been the natives of the ancient Assyrian homeland since times immemorial but in the past couple of centuries have preferred to be known by these other names for religious and political reasons.

No ancient or modern nation can ever claim racial purity. All nations are formed by the merging of thousands and even millions of human tribes who come together for social, political, religious, economic and security reasons. After centuries of intermarriage they become a united people who share a specific homeland, unique culture, history, language and heritage.

It is true that the "Assyrian, and the Babylonian empires and the Aramean states were ethnically diversified entities" but that has nothing to do with our people today; the product of 2500 years of intermarriage in the ancient Assyrian homeland. Attempts to divide them into different ancestry is impossible, arbitrary and contrary to all historical evidences. Genetically speaking no one can undo twenty six centuries of assimilation. How can one brother claim to be Assyrian, the other Chaldean, or Arameans simply because of church affiliation?

All nations claim descedence from diverse ancestors but find it to their advantage to unite around one common identity. The English can claim the Ibrians, Celts, Romans, Germaic people, Angles, saxons, Jutes among others as their historic ancestors but they have agreed to unite under the English name. Their unity around one common identity undoubtedly has contributed to the success and prosperity of their nation. The Arabs outside the Saudi Arabia are a compound of Various people, Arabs, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Assyrians, Arameans, Jews, Canaanites, Egyptians and people of various ancestry brought as slaves, but they never lose any sleep over what other name they can divide themselves by, it is not to their interest to do so. Union in a common identity has made it possible for the Arab culture to rule twenty two countries, occupy ten percent of the earth's surface and own 30% of all known oil deposits simply because of unshakable solidarity. The persians have been ruled by many invading nations who after centuries of assimilation can only be called Persians, such is the case for all successful nations.

The Birth of the Chaldean Church

Historical evidences contradict the notion that members of the Chaldean and the Syrian Orthodox Churches can not be considered Assyrians. Historical evidences describing the establishment of the Chaldean church and its growth from inception in 1552 to date are well documented. It is well known that its founders and all those who joined it were natives of Assyria, from Assyrian ancestry. As members of the Church of the East they had never called themselves Chaldeans until they joined the new Church. The 19th century Badger who lived several years among both, the so-called Chaldean and Nestorian communities, and was educated in reading and writing the Syriac language wrote: "Chaldean is a name commonly used to designate the Papal, but seldom to the Orthodox Nestorians."(2) In fact members of the Chaldean Church were called 'Papayee' i.e. Catholic by their brethren of the Church of the East. He also wrote: "the term Chaldean occurs in the Nestorian rituals, only in two instances, it is not used to designate a christian Community, but the ancient sect, who have been called 'Sabeans' or worshippers of the heavenly hosts".

The 11th century Mar Odishu used the name Chaldean in that sense when he wrote "Gawriel, Bishop of Hormzdshir, wrote against Manes, and the Chaldean;"(3) The 2nd century Bar Daisan, and the fourth century Mar Aprim the Great, among others, have equated Chaldean with people of all nationalities who believe in astrology, soothsaying and magic, as is the case in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The term Chaldean at its present form means nothing more than Catholic Assyrian or member of the chaldean Church.

Badger also wrote members of the oldest Chaldean community in Diarbekir were still identifying themselves as Suraye and Nestoraye in mid 19th century.(4) Ironically it is members of the Chaldean Church in the Plain of Nineveh who have unjustly denied their Assyrian heritage primarily for religious reasons, though they joined the new church during the 18th and the 19th centuries. This was done primarily to distinguish their religious affiliation from the one which they had belonged to previously. The descendants of the older Chaldean communities who lived further north in Southeast turkey, who presently live primarily in France, wisely acknowledge their ethnic Assyrian identity along with their Chaldean religious affiliation. Chaldean Church members of Iran consider themselves ethnically Assyrian and religiously Catholic.

Why Chaldean Means; Catholic Assyrian

Yohannan Sulaga a monk of the Raban Hormuzd monastery located twenty miles north of Nineveh, the founder of the Chaldean Church was first consecrated as the Patriarch of "the Assyrian Nation" by the Pope Julius III in 1553.(5) Other sources assert he was titled patriarch of "Mosul and Athur" .(6) The Chronicle of the Carmelites writes; Sulaga was proclaimed "Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians" on Feb. 20, 1553, but on April 19, 1553 he was redefined as the "Patriarch of the Chaldeans".(7)

The Choice of Chaldean as the identity of the new church may have had to do with the fact that it was put under the auspices of the previous Nestorian Church of Cyprus which was named as such by the Pope Eugene IV (1431-47) when it joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1445.(7A) There is no reason to believe that the Nestorian Church in Cyprus was in anyway related to the ancient Chaldeans either. Prof. Efrem Yildiz has suggested that because Yohannan Sulaga was native of Mesopotamia perhaps the new church was called Chalcdean in reference to the prophet Abraham's travel from the Ur of Kasdim [Chaldean] in Mesopotamia to Canaan. Or Perhaps in previous centuries this name was used by the Roman Catholic Church as a matter of insult in reference to the Church of the East.

Grammarian R. Eliahu Levita (1469-1549) in a Hebrew book titled "Masoret ha Masoret", published in Venice in the year 1538, reported that when he was in Rome, he met three Chaldeans, who had arrived from the country of Prester John, having been sent for by Pope Leo X. He states: "They were masters of the Syriac language and literature, though their vernacular language, ....gospels of the Christians which they brought with them was Syriac, which is also called Aramean, Babylonian, Assyrian... Pope Leo X. had sent for them, in order to correct by their Codices his exemplar of his New Testament, which was written in Latin." It is interesting to note that the three men were called Chaldean, perhaps because it was a way for the Roman Catholic Church to denigrate the Church of the East, but their language was called "Aramean, Babylonian, Assyrian."

The name Chaldean though not correct differentiated the new Catholic denomination from the Church of the East to which its members had belonged previously. A different name for the new Church facilitated its recognition by the Ottoman Sultans as an independent religious community or Melat. Those who joined the Chaldean church during the next 450 years did so for religious reasons, the security and financial help the Vatican and its allies provided them, and not because they had a sudden revelation that they were ethnically Chaldean.

Long after the establishment of the Chaldean church according to the Vatican archives its Patriarchs were known as Assyrian, their homeland was known as assyria and their people were Assyrians.

On February 19, 1562, Cardinal Amolius in a codex to the committee of the cardinals in Tredando introduced Sulaga's successor Patriarch Odisho Bar Yohannan Bet Maron (1555 -1570) as "..The Patriarch of the Assyrians who has been elected by the clergies and approved by their people".(8)

Mons. Cesare Gloneno who for a short time was the secretary of the Pope Pius IV (1555-1565) reported that Mar' Abraham Archbishop of "Angamalensend" in India says he was sent [to that country] by "Abdishu Patriarch of Assyria." Venerabili Fratri Abdisho Patriarchae Assyriorum sive de Muzal Pius Papa Quartus.(9)

XI. (=XXII) In 1578 Chief men of Syrio Malabar Christians wrote to Pope Gregory XIII (1572- 1585) that they previously "received their Bishops and Archbishops from the "Assyrians of the East and that they had the orders of priesthood and deaconates from the same" they asked that he should order the Patriarch of the Assyrians or Chaldeans without delay to send them Bishops according to the ancient customs.(10)

XIV. (=XXXV) Mar Elia the Archbishop of Amedia in 1580 presented a report to the Pope about the state of the "Chaldean Church in Assyria", and in Malabar. In the same year he traveled to Rome as representative of the Chaldeans (members of the Chaldean Church) to get mar Simon Dinha confirmed as the Patriarch of the Church and to receive the sacred Pallium for him.(11)

In a letter to Cardinal Carafa in 1580 Mar Elia implored him to obtain an order from the Holy See to abolish the practice of addressing the Syro-Chaldeans as Nestorians. The Pope Eugnius IV reminded the cardinals that the "Chaldeans of Assyria" and Malabar are Catholic living in perfect submission to the Holy See that this order should be published throughout the christendom.(12)

XV. (=XXXVI) In 1584 Mar Abraham asks the Pope Gregory XIII to confirm the election of the Archdeacon, George of Christ as Bishop of Palur, Coadjutor and successor to him. According to his letter this election was made by the power granted him by the "Assyrian Patriarch." [Odisho Bar Yohannan Bet Maron]".(13)

According to the 'chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia' The Pope Paul V in a letter dated Nov.3, 1612 to the Persian King Shah Abbas I, wrote: "Those in particular who are called Assyrians or Jacobites and inhabit Isfahan will be compelled to sell their very children in order to pay the heavy tax you have imposed on them, unless You take pity on their misfortune." (13A)

These and other such references to the Chaldean Church patriarchs, their people and the Church of the East members in Mesopotamia, the highlands north of Mosul and the plain of Urmia in Northwest Iran as Assyrians, since the establishment of the new church, disprove the often repeated notion that members of the twin churches were not known as such before the 19th century.

The Vatican Role in Promoting "Chaldean" as an Ethnic Identity

Gradually by the end of the 16th century the Roman Catholic Church began an active campaign to ferment hatred of the Church of the East and its people by defining them as "cursed and schismatic" perhaps to encourage its followers to become Catholic and discourage the reversion of the new Catholics, especially in India. On May 14, 1599 Synod in India those who had joined the Catholic Church were warned that "anyone who mentions the name of the "Patriarch of Babylon", the head of the Church of the East , shall be declared excommunicate', and will be held as schismatic and heretic, and shall be punished as such, according to the Holy Canons. ...and whereas the Patriarchs of Babylon, to whom this Church [previously] was subject, are Nestorians, the heads of that cursed sect and schismatic out of the obedience of the Holy Roman Church, and aliens from our Holy Catholic faith, and for that reason are excommunicated and accursed." (14)

From then on the term "Chaldean" was promoted as the ethnic identity of the Catholic Assyrians by the Roman Church and even the name of their Syriac language was changed to 'Chaldiac' or Chaldean. In another synod in India it was decided; "the Syrian Mass" by the bishops of the "schismatic and Nestorian heretics" contained "impious and heretical errors" therefore; " all the [Syriac] missals of this bishopric [the previous Nestorian denomination taken over by the Roman Catholic church] ought to be burned, as also for having been of Nestorian use, compiled by Nestorian heretics: but being there are no other at present, they are tolerated, until such time as our Lord the Pope shall take some order therein, and there shall be missals sent by him printed in the 'Chaldiac tongue' which is what this Synod humbly and earnestly desires may be done".(15)

The language of the Chaldean Church was and is the same as that of the Church of the East and had been known as Suraya, Syriac and at times Assyrian during all centuries of Christianity. The renaming it to the 'Chaldiac Tongue' was intended to give the impression that members of the Chaldean church belonged to a different ethnic origin. Eventually thousands of books previously published by the Church of the East available in India were burned. Some after being edited to adhere to the Catholic theology were reprinted in the same Syriac language that was now renamed 'Chaldean'. It would have been impossible to expect the Christians of India in a relatively short time to learn reading and writing of a different language other than what they already knew. The Chaldean Archbishop Addai Scher of Sereit in Turkey wrote the Roman missionaries did the same in Mesopotamia.(15B) The term 'Chaldic' promoted by the Roman Catholic Church owes its origin to the name Jews gave to the Aramaic language during their exile in Babylon by Nebukhednassir who was of Chaldean heritage. While in Latin or French section of the books published by the Catholic missionaries the language is termed "Chaldean", in the Syriac section it is described as Suraya or swadaya.

By 1606 the Roman Catholic Church seems to have succeeded in fostering hatred among the so-called Chaldeans of India and perhaps in Mesopotamia for the Church of the East and its members. When two Tibetians at that year arrived in Rome from India they introduced themselves as Syro-Chaldean. "They described their religion by stating that they are the disciples of St. Thomas and have always been Catholics. When they were told that the Christians of Mylapore [Malabar] India were at one time Nestorians and "had a Nestorian Bishop appointed for them by the 'Patriarch of Babylon' and it was not possible to believe that they were [always] Catholics", the two replied: "The Nestorians are very much abhorred by the Chaldeans on account of heresy as excommunicated...." (16)

Gradual Expansion of the Chaldean Church

The Sulaga line of the Chaldean Patriarchs came to an end when Shimon X who was in line to become the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, but could not travel to Rome to be consecrated, reverted to the Church of the East in 1670 and established a new branch in the mountains north of Mosul. It is this line which has survived to this day and is known as the "Assyrin Church of the East."

Another opportunity presented itself to the Roman Catholic Church to energize the Chaldean Church when in 1668 Mar Yousef a bishop of the Church of the East in Amedia secretly became Catholic. When this was discovered he was fired from his post by Patriarch Elia X (1660-1700) of the original Church of the East in the Plain of Nineveh. Mar Yousef traveled to Rome to further his education in the theology of his new found religion and the art and science of propaganda and proselytizing . On Jan 25, 1677 he was given a brief of felicitations from Pope Clement X, Later with the help of French archbishop Francis Pickit, he was sent to France for further education and upon his return he was provided with considerable amount of funds to use as an incentive for those who were willing to switch denomination. In 1681 Joseph was consecrated as the first in a line of Chaldean Patriarchs in Amedia and Diarbekir who had the title of Mar Yousef [Sir Joseph]..(17)

Until the 18th century the Latin missionaries were åprohibited by the Ottoman Sultans from proselytizing in the Plain of Nineveh but through the efforts of the French government the restrictions were removed. By the third quarter of the 19th century most villages in the region were turned Catholic and termed Chaldean. Hannan Hormuzd the younger sibling of Patriarch Eliya XII (1778 - 1804) of the Church of the East in the plain of Nineveh, who had secretly become Catholic as a young man, began an aggressive campaign to proselytize among members of the Church of the East in villages such as Armoot, Shaglawa and others. In 1782 he was 'granted a license to minister and perfect the office of Patriarch,' by Pope Pius VI, but was not allowed to use the patriarchal seal.(18)

After the death of Patriarch Mar Elia XII Matran, Hannan Hormuzd through help from the Roman Catholic Church, became the patriarch of the Church of the East in the plain of nineveh, but it was not until July 5, 1830 that he was recognized by Rome as the Patriarch of the Chaldeans.

From then on, to force the conversion of those who remained loyal to the Church of the East, they were oppressed in various ways by their brethren who had joined the new Church. Those who were unwilling to do so had no choice but to escape to the mountains because as one writer put it "they could expect no charity nor justice" in the Plain of Nineveh since church properties including schools and convents were confiscated by the new denomination, non Catholic were not even allowed to be buried in the cemeteries where their forefathers rested.(18A)

The conversion of the Assyrians to Catholicism continued even outside the Plain of Nineveh. According to Rassam a common tactic to force the entire communities to join was to have the local Turkish authorities make life unbearable for them until they did. In 1882 he writes:
"It is extraordinary to state that the delegates of the Roman Church have not succeeded in converting the Nestorians of Shaikh to their dogmas, though so near a Turkish town, where former possess so much power under the protection of the French Government. The reason for this is, I suppose the fear of Koordish interference, though the Nestorians of Shaikh told me that the Chaldean Catholics of Jezeerah, who were their co-religionist, had always tried through their influence with the local authorities to bully them into submission to the Pope."(19) A substantial number of Assyrians in Urmia were also converted to Catholicism by the Latin missionaries during the 18th,19th and 20th centuries.

Forced conversion of members of the Church of the East into Catholicism has been attested to by other 19th century historians. Layad wrote: "... We continued our advance towards Amediya reaching the Chaldean village of Be-bozeh at the top of a high mountain … There were ten houses overlooking a deep valley, its inhabitants were all poor, but they warmly welcomed us, they are Nestorian Assyrians, who were forced to convert to Catholicism". Layard continues his account describing what they saw as they reached the village’s Church: "There were pictures in ugly colors of Virgin Mary and Saints on the walls with Latin writing not suitable for this place. I asked them about the pictures, they answered: Following our priest’s death, Archbishop Yousif the Catholic came to us he hung those pictures on the walls and asked us to kneel before them, but we removed the pictures from the walls and the answer of Mahmoud Agha of the Mezzouri kurds, was to order his men to beat us until canes were broken on our legs, that is why we left the pictures on the walls, and we are forced to listen to Archbishop Yousif’s sermons who comes to the village protected by the Kurds …” (19B)

Henry Lobdel who about the end of the 1800 spent a considerable amount of time in Mosul, Algosh and other towns of the Plain of Nineveh wrote: "Patriarch of the valley [Mosul and Nineveh] had gone over to the Pope and taken most of the people with him. The Papists [Chaldeans] had possession of the churches and the schools, the convents the revenues all the ecclesiastical property, so long as the fugitives adhered to the faith of their fathers [Church of the East] they could expect neither charity nor justice. They were denied the needful food, raiment, and shelter. Nay they were even refused burial in the churches that were properly their own. But if they would only turn Papists, not only charity but bribes were distributed with a liberal hand, "Forty thousand piasters of French gold are said to have aided the arguments employed to convince them [ to change] the identity of that church [Chaldean] with their own."[19C] Faced with such discrimination also persecution by the Valli of Mosul instigated by the Catholic missionaries to force them into submission those who refused to join the Chaldean Church had no choice but to flee into the mountains.[19D]  

The testimony of the late Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Raphael BeDaweed, about how his family became Chaldean is true for all other members of that church.
" ... Personally, my family became Chaldean only some 100 years ago, my grandfather Daweed was a Nestorian priest, and the same is true with all the rest of us ...we need to differentiate between nationality and Church, between church and politics ... the Chaldean title for us does not mean ethnicity or nationality, historically there is not an Assyrian religion. True Assyrianism is an ethnicity and we all are Assyrian. We could be Assyrian ethnically, but we are Chaldeans religiously. We can not have our Church associated with ethnicity or nationality".(20) No one could have said it better. Historical evidences prove him right.

On many occasions the late Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Raphael BeDaweed has reiterated the ethnic Assyrian identity of the chaldean church and its members.

"Unity is a Godly Mission...anyyhing that divides us is not christian. We are one denomination, one nation, sons of one household, we belong to the same faith..Dividibg us had nothing to do with christianity it was due to political and personal conflicts.."  

The movement of parishioners from the Church of the East to the Chaldean ChurchMarBawai-pope with the help of the Roman Catholic Church has been an ongoing process since the establishment of the Chaldean Church. The June 8-14, 2008 Issue of NCRegister.com under the title; "3,000 New Catholics" and subtitle: "Bishop’s Assyrian Flock Now in Communion With Rome" reported as follows:
"EL CAJON, Calif. — Busily preparing himself for Pentecost, Mar Bawai Soro — a suspended bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East — received the news for which he had been waiting.
He and a great number of his adherents in El Cajon, Calif. — nearly 3,000 by his count — were formally accepted on May 9 [2008] into the Catholic diocese of St. Peter the Apostle for Chaldeans and Assyrians."
If past is an indication of future in time even these people will be redefined as ethnically Chaldeans, by the Chaldean Church, however in reality Cahldean means nothing more than Catholic Assyrian.

At times other luminaries of the Chaldean church have attested to the Assyrian ethnicity of the members of the chaldean Church. Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly in his 1958 thesis of doctorate degree in Theology titled "The Establishment of the Patriarchate in the Church of the East" attests to the fact that the Chaldean Church is a Catholic branch of the Church of the East in Mesopotamia which he describes as ethnically Assyrian and asserts that the religious name Chaldean was given to a faction of Christians inhabitants of Assyria.

The Roman Catholic Church by imposing the name Chaldean on the Catholic Assyrians and redefining the Assyrians of the Church of the East as "Nestorian Heretics, cursed and schismatic." succeeded in undermining and obscuring the Assyrian identity and the heritage of both churches in northern Mesopotamia and Urmia.

History According to One Chaldean Church Bishop

In their desire to legitimize the fabricated Chaldean ancestry of their parishioners Priests and bishops, such as Sarhad Jammo, strive to rewrite history contrary to the known facts. In an article titled; "Who Are Chaldeans of Today" Sarhad Jammo seems to imply that not only the Babylonians also Assyrians identified themselves as Chaldeans during and after the Neo-Babylonian dynasty. He writes:

"The Chaldean Empire was the last national name for Mesopotamia before falling to foreign powers.[Persians] ..... As history would have it, this Chaldean regime was the last to rule in Babylon. The last name of this empire was not eternally attached to the Chaldeans, therefore whoever spoke of the final state of Babylon found himself simultaneously speaking of the Chaldeans. The name "Chaldean", in this final stage, included both Babylon and Nineveh (Assyria)".(21)

In reality the so-called Chaldean Empire was nothing more than what Nebuchadressar inherited from the Assyrians who had built it during the previous two centuries. Empires like civilization can not be established overnight. Joan Oates writes "After his accession Nebuchadressar moved into Syria for a lengthy campaign which was little more than an un-opposed display of military might , designed no doubt to facilitate the collection of tribute.."(22)

There is no indication that Babylonians or Assyrians called themselves Chaldeans during or after the 87 years of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty which most of its kings were of Chaldean ancestry. The Babylonian Chronicles refer to Nabuchadressar as "Shar Akkadi" i.e. 'King of Akkad' his army is termed 'Umman mat Akkadi' or the "Army of Akkad". Obviously 'Akkad' was the name which Babylonians used to identify their country and people by and 'Babili' was the name of its capital but the contemporary historians use the term Babylon in reference to both. The name Chaldean has been used by the medieval and the contemporary historian in reference to the neo-Babylonian dynasty not because Babylonians called themselves by that name but to specify the time period between 626 B.C. to 539 B.C. when a dynasty of Kings who were of Chaldean ethnicity ruled the country. The translator of the Babylonian chronicles published them under the name; "Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings" even though there is no mention of Chaldea or Chaldeans throughout them.(23) The Babylonians like the Sumerians and the Akkadeans before them also identified themselves as the "Black headed People" a name which the Persian king Cyrus uses in reference to them in his cylinder, as Hamurabi did in his Law Code; "..the black-headed (people) whom Bel presented to me and whose care Marduk gave to me.."

In reality the Chaldeans, a minority living in southern marshes of Mesopotamia, were a subversive element who in alliance with the Elamites and the Medes succeeded in destroying a great civilization which had survived for thousands of years. Babylonians do not seem to have been enamored by their kings of the Chaldean ancestry. "In the tenth year of Nabuchadressar's rule (C.595) there was a serious rebellion which appears to have been suppressed only after the slaughter of many of his troops."(24) When Nebuchadressar died in 562 B.C., his son Amel-Marduk took the throne. Less than a year later he was killed in a revolution. Nabuchadressar's son in law Nerigalissar a prominent general who succeeded Amel-Marduk in 559 B.C. died three years later, (556 B.C.) under suspicious circumstances. His young son Labashi-Marduk assumed the throne but after three months a rebellion by the chief state officers removed him from power in 555 B.C.. Nabu-naid replaced him and ruled for 16 years (555-539). By then the Babylonians disgusted with the Chaldean dynasty opened the gates of Babylon in 539 and welcomed the Persian army into the city as liberators. "On the third day of Arahshamnu (Nov.) Kurash (Cyrus) entered Babylon, green twigs were spread in front of him - the state of "peace" (shulmu) was imposed upon the city." In later Persian inscriptions Babylonians are identified as "Baburish" and not Chaldean.(25)

Persians in Babylon
Artist's conception of Persian Army being welcomed at the Ishtar's Gate

Chaldean rule in Assyria?

Another myth of dubious nature promoted by the Chaldean clergies is that not only the Babylonians who changed their identity to Chaldean also did the Assyrias after their defeat.
Bishop Sarhad Jammo writes:
. ...The Chaldeans and Assyrians, therefore, became one people as a result of political circumstances. They were now, perforced, all "Chaldeans" in the sense that the Chaldean Empire was their final name under one nation..."He further wrote; "The name "Chaldean", in this final stage, included both Babylon and Nineveh (Assyria)"

A people who are persecuted by the their conquerers do not abandon their identity and assume that of their new rulers. Also why there is no mention of the so-called Chaldeans in Assyria until the Chaldean Church was established in the Plain of Nineveh in mid 18th century? Furthermore what happened to the Assyrians who according to all historical evidences lived predominantly in that region until they converted to Catholicism?

We have already established that the Babylonians, their army, and their Kings did not identify themselves as Chaldeans, therefore if Babylonians ruled Assyria they would have promoted the Babylonian or Akkdian name and not the Chaldean. The latter name was often used by the Greeks, and Jews in reference to the Priests of Marduk who through astrology and other means predicted the future. Arrian in his "The Campaigns of Alexander writes; "Alexander came into contact with the Chaldeans; in all matters of religious ceremonies he took their advice, offering sacrifice to Bel in particular, according to their instruction." The translator of the Campaigns of Alexander in a footnote writes; "By 'Chaldeans' Arrian Means the priests of Marduk."(26) Other ancient historians have similarly defined the meaning of the name, as is the case in the Old Testament book of Daniel.

This writer does not suggest that there was no people known ethnically as Chaldeans, however historical evidence suggest that seventy some years rule of the Chaldean Kings did not result in changing the identity of the Babylonians nor that of the Assyrians. In fact southern Mesopotamia during the Persian, Sassanian dynasty (224-641) was specifically known as Asoristan. i.e. Assyria. Persians, Greeks Arabs, Mogols and Turks who collectively ruled the Assyrians for more than 2000 years were not able to change the identity of our people why should one believe that the Chaldean dynasty of Babylon succeeded in changing ethnicity of the Babylonians or the Assyrians in a very short time. Historian Curtis writes: "..neither the Babylonians nor the Medes exercised any meaningful control over the Assyrian heartland, which remained in a backward state during this period [610-539]."(27)

No Christian community in Mesopotamia identified itself as Chaldean until a new Catholic Chruch was established in mid 16th cenutry which was given that name for unknown reasons. This church did not officially arrive in the Plain Of Nineveh until mid 18th cenetury.

Few mentions of the Ethnic Chaldeans during Christian era suggest that they like the Harranians continued to worship the ancient deities and by the end of the 9th century they had converted to Islam. Al-Kindi (805-873) asserts that people living in the Chaldean delta [in southern Mesopotamia] were converted into Islam perhaps in the 8th or the ninth century A.D.. He writes : "various classes [were] brought over to Islam, by sordid and unworthy motives. There were first the mongrel boors of the neighboring Chaldean delta (al Sawad); "You may address them in Arabic, and they may move their tongue, like a parrot, in reply; but they are mongrel still." (28)

These new Muslims which also included Persians were known as mawali (none Arab converts). By the 9th century they had grown so strong that under the leadershop of Zinj they threaten the very existance of the Abassid Caliphate. (29) The Caliph employed thousands of slaves mostly from Africa to drain the marshes round Basra to bring the region under control. The difficualt working condition and the brutality by which they were treated led to their revolt. Under the leadership of a Persian Ali ibn Muhammad they fought for fourteen years (869-883) and defeated army after army sent against them. They sacked Basra and captured Ahwaz and pliaged to within twenty miles of Baghdad before they were stopped. (ibid) If anyone is looking for the descendants of the anceint Chaldeans should search among the Marsh Arabs. "They lived in a region of swamps, lakes, and canebrakes along the lower course of the two rivers between the shores of the Persian Gulf and the southernmost cities of Babylonia."(30)

Ibn Wahshiya Kasadani (about 900 A.D.) also indicates that his people known as Kasadim, the Old Testament term for Chaldeans, worshiped the Pagan gods and were persecuted by the Moslems who had forced them to take refuge in "the marshes of Wasith" and of Bassra where sheites and Mandeans have lived.(31)

Ibn Wahshiya was a moslem but Islam had been in his family since the time of his grand father which indicates that the rest of the community may have been forced to convert also. He showed a dislike of Arabs for what they had done to his people and resented their rule.(ibid)


The assumption that members of the Chaldean church are descendants of the ancient Chaldeans has no basis in reality, this self serving concept has been promoted primarily by the clergies of that Church with support from the Roman Catholic Church to distinguish, separate and segregate the Catholic Assyrians, from the members of the Church of the East, and the Syrian Orthodox Church, for religious and political reasons. While throughout the 16th century the Roman Catholic Church identified members of the Chaldean Church as Assyrians gradually they were redefined as Chaldeans not only in religious terms but also ethnically, at the same time followers of the Church of the East were called: "Nestorians and cursed". Such misrepresentation undermined the use of Assyrian for the Christians of Iraq not only by the Vatican also by Catholics around the world, creating the false impression that Assyrians were not known by that name before the 19th century.

Yohannan Hormuzd, the last patriarch of the Church of the East in the plain of Nineveh, was declared the patriarch of the Chaldeans in 1830. (32) Given such tangled history it is no wonder that there is still so much confusion about the historic heritage of the Christian inhabitants in the homeland of the ancient Assyrians.

At a very crucial moment of history when Layard and other archaeologists arrived to unearth the Assyrian antiquities the christians in the plain of Nineveh were known primarily as Chaldean because of their Church affiliation. Not knowing why they were called by that name the explorers with the proding of the Chaldean clergies and the Latin missionaries were misled into believing that they were the descendants of the ancient chaldeans. Such confusion is evident in early writings of the explorers who wrongly use Chaldean in reference to the Church of the East. For example Layard wrote: When Arabs invaded Mesopotamia in the seventh century AD "they found the Chaldean church already powerful in the East," in reality there was no Christian community known as Chaldean nor a Chaldean Church before this denomination came into existance in mid 16th century, the descendants of the ancient Chaldeans had long ceased to exist.

Despite such evidences clergies of the Chaldean Church continue to claim the name of their denomination as the ethnic identify of their parishioners. In 2005 Patriarch Dally petitioned the Iraqi government and the Kurdish leaders toprotest

recognize members of his Church as ethnically Chaldean and refer to them as such in Iraq's constitution and official documents. Kurds and Arabs who have always been eager to divide and marginalizes the Christian Community were happy to comply despite widespread demonstrations in the plain of Nineveh, against dividing the Christians of Iraq. demonstators also included members of the Chaldean Church.

Protesting against attempts to separate members of the Chadeans Church from their Assyrian heritage

The Roman Catholic Church has a moral obligation to correct the injustice it has inflicted on the Christians of Iraq during the last few centuries for intentionally misrepresenting the Catholic Assyrians as Chaldeans, alienating them from their Assyrian heritage, dividing the Christians of Iraq not only religiously also ethnically. If Christians of Iraq have any chance of survival they need to be united, while Christianity divides them into various denominations their common ancestry, ethnic origin, culture and heritage unite them as a people of shared identity, history and destiny. Catholic Church has to instruct the Chaldean clergies to stop undermining the Assyrian identity of their parishioners and not to separate and segregate them from their brethren of the Church of the East and the Syrian Orthodox Church.

It is truely amazing that insspite of such well documented historical facts some Chaldean Church clergies will continue to deny the ture history of their people and strive to claim the name of their church as their parisioner's ethnic identity.

During the 2009 synod of the Chaldean church in Ankawa Bishop Sarhad Jammo and his supporters succeeded in passing a resolution urging clergies and members of the church to petition the Kurdistan Regional Government, in its new constitution, to recognize members of the Chaldean Church as a distinct ethnic group, other than Assyrian. However many members of the church who consider this as an attempt to divide our people and undermine their collective rights in Iraq have expressed their opposition to such outcome. Following is a letter by a member of the Chaldean Church to the Patriarch Emanuel III Dally against such campaign.


........................... The ENGLISH TRANSLATION below >

His Excellency Mar Emanuel III Dally , being a Catholic you don’t have any right to change my nationalism.

I read your letter which you sent to Mr. Masoud Al-Barzani the region president to affirm the term “ Chaldaean “ as a separate nation by itself . Being the head of the Catholic Church ( Chaldaean ) you represented those who are members of such Church and myself one of them., for this reason I ask your holiness to accept my rejection to your letter for two reasons:

Firstly, being your holiness a religious personality and the head of the Church which I belong to , I am not pleased that you interfere in the political affairs.

Secondly, I am from the town of Ankawa which its history goes back to 1500 years. Such civilized and ancient town its inhabitants prior to 1779 were members of the Assyrian Ancient Church of the East which means its inhabitants were Assyrians originally.
In the year 1779 by the efforts of Youkhana Hirmezd, the town of Ankawa , Armota , Kwesinjeq and Shaqlawa were detached from the authority of Beth Aboona, and the Church of the East ( the book History of Ankawa by Aziz Abd-Alahad Nabati ). Since then our Church was named as Chaldaean Church . And followed generations established such term / name in the minds of its followers and because Catholicism does not have any interest in national matters for that reason all those who were members of the Chaldaean Church they were distancing themselves from any national efforts which became only confined in the Assyrians who were not Catholic in denomination.

I personally, don’t speak in any name but represent myself only, and say I do belong to the Catholic Church ( Chaldaean ) which I am proud of it, BUT my national identity was and will continue to be ASSYRIAN and nobody will be capable of changing it.

Another Note your Excellency: Today the Chaldaean Church is plagued with the Arabization disease in its various branches because the followers don’t understand the language of our ancestors. Is it not a time to advise our respected fathers to preserve our language and heritage which are a brilliant national efforts instead interfering in the political affairs?!
And last but not the least, I am obliged here to call your holiness to clarify and be vocal and declare to our masses the historical facts that all those who are members of the Chaldaean Church are ASSYRIANS in nationalism and Catholic in denomination by such step you will be able to put all our arguments and grievances behind and become a father who united his people and who will inter the history in its wider door because of your achievements will be very great.

With my respect and appreciation,

Issam Al-Malih


The Iraqi government and often Kurds for self serving political reasons have strived to exploit the factional differences among the Chrisitans they rule to undermine their Assyrian identity because it provides the strongest historical, geographic, ethnic and political legitimacy to prove that they are the indigenous people of Iraq, who have lived in that land long before Christianity, the 7th century AD Arab conquest, and the invasion of the Kurds in recent centuries. Saddams Hossain made no secret of his desire to redefine the Christians of Iraq as "Christian Arabs" by forcing them to sign the so called "Ethnic Correction Statements". Even in Syria government has pressured clergies of the Syrian Orthodox Church to deny the Assyrian heritage of their people. The decision by the Patriarch Mor Aprim Barsoum to redefine his Church and its people as Aramean, and perhaps the recent attempts by the current Patriarch and some clergies to describe the ethnicity of their parishioners as Arab are parts and parcels of the same political game. For more information about how and why Mor Barsoum redefined his church and its people 'Arameans' see the "Assyrian Heritage of the Syrian Orthodox Church"

Also a related article titled "Aphrim Barsoum's Role in distancing the Syrian Orthodox Church from its Assyrian Heritage"


1- http://zindamagazine.com/html/archives/2006/01.21.06/index_sat.php
2- George Percy Badger, "Nestorians and their rituals", Volume II. Reprint 1969 Joseph Masters, Aldersgate St. London p. 181.
3- Badger p. 178-9.
4- Hormuzd (Rassam, "Asshur and the Land of Nimrod", Cincinnati:Curtis and Jennins 1897 pp.173-4.

4b.Layard, Henry. In Search of Nineveh, translation by Dr. Michael Abdullah, pp. 19, Arabic edition by Sargon Publishing House
5- Xavier Koodapuzha, "Faith and Communion in the Indian Church of Saint Thomas Christians, Oriental Institute of Religious Studies, Kerala, India, p.59.
6- Catholic Encyclopedia, "Chaldean Rite ", 1967, Vol. III, pp.427-428.
7- George V. Yana (Bebla), "Myth vs. Reality" JAAStudies, Vol. XIV, No. 1, 2000 p. 80.
7A- Luerece De Matran, "Nestorian Church in Cyprus", Ninveh Magazine, Vol 28, No. 1, First quarter 2005 p. 19.
8- Sarhad Jammo, "The Two Branches of Eastern Church," Bayn-Al-Nahrayn 95/96, Baghdad 1996 p. 196.
9- "A short history of the church of malabar," Previously @ http://www.indianchristianity.com/html/chap1/chapter1a.htm.
10- Vatican archives published in 1902, Rome by Very. Rev Fr. Samuel Giamil, General Procurator of the Chaldean Patriarch to the Holy See. From pp. 69-100; 604-610. XII. (Archiv. Vat. Secr., Archiv. de Castello, Armad. VII, caps. V, N.9.
11- ibid.
12- Vide Patronatus Porugallee Tom. II page 241.
13- Ibid, Vatican archives published in 1902..
13A- "A chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia" http://www.auf.nu/auf/viewarticle.php?id=24
14- Actions 21 of the Synod of Diamper, Session III, Decree VIII (Hough Vol. II. p. 538.
15- James Hough, "history of 'the Christianity in India" Vol. II. p. 583.) Session v. Decree I. 15B - Addai Scher, "History of the Chaldean Assyrians" in Arabic, Beyrouth Imprimerie 1913.  He however identifies the language as Syriac.
16- Vide Giamil p. 11. Translated from the Italian narration taken from the Vatican Archives by Giamil p. 102-103.
17- Samuel Guiana, "History of Mesopotmia",in Syriac, Chicago 1979
18- Badger pp.149.
18A- Tyler S. W., "Memoir of Rev. Henry Lobdell, Late Missionary of American Board At Mosul, includingthe Early History of the Assyrian Mission," The American Tract Society p.166.
19- Hormuzd Rassam, "Asshur and the Land of Nimrod", Cincinnati:Curtis and Jennins 1897 p.389.
19B- Layard, Henry. In Search of Nineveh, translation by Dr. Michael Abdullah, pp. 19, Arabic edition by Sargon Publishing House
19C- Rev. w. S. Tayler, "Memoir of Rev. Henry Lobdel (Mission of the American Board at Mosul)", 1895 p. 166.
19D- ibid

20- Assyrian Star interview;/ No. 5, September-October issue 1974.
21- Sarhad Jammo; The Importance of the Chaldean Name, " Contemporary Chaldeans and Assyrians, one Primordial Nation, one Origionall Church " @ http://www.chaldeansonline.net/chald.html
22- Joan Oates, "Babylon" Thames and Hudson, London 1979 p. 128.
23- Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings by (626-556 B.C.) D.J. Wise man, London 1956.
24- Joan Oates, p.129.
25- Sukumar Sen. "Old Persian Inscriptions fo the Achaemenian emperors" University of Calcutta 1941 p.107.
26- De Selincourt Aubrey trans. Arrian, "Campaigns of Alexander", Penguin Classics, 1958 p.173.
27- Curtis John, "The Achaemenid Period in Northern Iraq", L’archéologie de l’empire achéménide, Paris, Collège de France, 21-22 novembre 2003 page 2.
28- (Sir William Muir, "The Apology of Al Kindi" cirica A.H. 215; A.D. 830, Society of Promotion of Christian knowledge, 2nd edition London 1887, p. 85.
29- Thesiger Wilfred, "The Marsh Arabs", E.p. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York 1964 p.95)

30- Oppenheim Leo, Ancient Mesopotamia, Protrate of a dead Civilization, University of Chicago Press, 1964 p. 160.
31- Sabine Baring-Gould, "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages", Chapter XIII. S. George @ http://www.commonplacebook.com/fiction/myths/ch13/ as of April 4-04.
32- R. Rabban, "Chaldean Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic)" New Catholic Encyclopedia, second edition, Voll.-3 p. 36