Chaldean Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic)

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The contacts that the Holy See made with the Assyrian Church of the East from the time of the Latin Crusades resulted in the gradual emergence of a fledging Chaldean Catholic community. The first Patriarch of the Church of the East known to have made contact with Rome was Sabrishō'ibn-al-Masīī (122657). Latin missionaries commended him to Innocent IV, and the pope in turn addressed a letter of good wishes and encouragement to the patriarch. In 1247 Rabban Ara, the Patriarchal Vicar, acknowledged receipt of the pope's letter and thanked him in terms indicative of respect for the papal authority. Rabban Ara's letter was accompanied by two others, one brought from China by Rabban Ara himself, and the other containing the profession of faith of Ishō'yab bar Maldon, Metropolitan of Nisibis, two other metropolitans, and three bishops. It seems that a collective union was being sought. The letter that Ya-balāhā III (12811317) addressed to Pope Benedict XI on May 18, 1304, indicated his desire to enter into communion with the See of Rome.

Circumstances of time, place, and persons played a controlling part in the instability of the union. In Cyprus, dispositions made by the Holy See impelled the faithful of the Church of the East to resist union for 120 years and to oppose and repudiate members of their clergy who favored it. For example the bull of Honorius III of Feb. 12, 1222, had commanded the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the Latin archbishop of Caesarea, and the bishop of Bethlehem to bring the Christians to obedience to the Latin archbishop of Nicosia; and the bull of John XXII of Oct. 1, 1326, had ordered the patriarch of Jerusalem to extirpate heresies by whatever means he chose. A brief union was effected in 1340 by Elias, Bishop of Cyprus. Several of those converted during the union achieved in 1445 by Timothy, Bishop of Cyprus, abjured five years later. A rigid policy of Latinization was applied by the Doge of Venice, who succeeded the Lusignans as ruler of the island in 1489.

Communion with Rome. The definitive union that brought forth the Chaldean Catholic Church took place in the 16th century. Simon III Basidi (148093) and his successors introduced a hereditary succession to the patriarchate, from uncle to nephew or cousin. Since the Assyrian Church of the East reserved to metropolitans the right to consecrate the patriarch, the Basidis, known as the "Abuna" (patriarchal family, sought to create metropolitans only from among their own number, as a precaution. This reduced the number of metropolitans until under Simeon V bar Māmā there was only one, his eight-year-old nephew. The practice brought ignorant and unworthy minors to patriarchal rank, for which they were unprepared, and imposed celibacy on them. The conscience of the hierarchy was aroused; they sought a radical remedy in communion with Rome.

The movement was led by the three bishops of Irbīl, Salamas, and Azerbaijan. They met at Mosul with the clergy, the monks, and three or four lay delegates from each of ten regions to elect a patriarch. Their choice was Sulāqā, a religious priest since 1540 and superior of the Convent of Rabban-Hormizd, near Alkosh, approximately 25 miles from Mosul. He refused, even after a second ballot. After a third ballot, in which he still led, the assembly decreed that force be used, if necessary, to oblige the candidate to present himself. Sulāqā was hailed before the assembly, and his election was proclaimed amid cries of joy and applause. The bishops among the electors seem to have excluded themselves to avoid any suspicion of self-interest.

Armed with the proper documents and accompanied by three notables, Adam, Thomas, and Khalaph, Sulāqā left Mosul for Rome, with an escort of 70 as far as Jerusalem. On Nov. 15, 1552, he arrived in Rome, accompanied only by Khalaph. One companion had died on the way, and another had been detained by illness. On the basis of a report by Cardinal Maffei, Pope Julius III promulgated his bull of Feb. 20, 1553, proclaiming Sulāqā Patriarch of Mosul. This was the official establishment of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Sulāqā was consecrated a bishop on April 9, 1553, by Pope Julius III in the Basilica of Saint Peter and received the pallium from the hands of the pope at a secret consistory held at the Vatican on April 28. At Sulāqā's request for help in his ministry, the pope appointed the Dominican Ambrose Buttigeg as representative of the Holy See to the fledging Chaldean Catholic Church. In July Sulāqā left Rome, accompanied by A. Buttigeg; Antoninus Zahara, a Dominican from Malta; and a certain Matthew; as well as by his first companion Khalaph. He arrived in Diarbekir, his patriarchal residence, on Nov. 12, 1553, where he was received triumphally by clergy and people, as evidenced by his letter to Julius III (one of two letters remaining of his correspondence). On November 19, seven days after his return, he consecrated Bishop abīb Elias Asmar. In December he obtained in Aleppo from the Sultan documents that acknowledged him head of the Chaldean nation, "after the example of all the Patriarchs. " In 1554 he consecrated Metropolitan 'Abdīshī ' of Jezireh. Elias Asmar later identified five bishops and metropolitans consecrated by Sulāqā.

With the help of a hierarchy of eight bishops, assisted by Ambrose and Antoninus, and armed with documents from the Sultan, Sulāqā initiated the expected reform. As was quite natural, opposition to his efforts soon made itself felt. In fact, the Assyrian Patriarch Simeon Denā, now Sulāqā's rival and bitter enemy, prevailed upon the Pasha of Amadya to invite Sulāqā there under the pretext that his presence in that region could contribute to the union of the Assyrians and Chaldean Catholics. Once in Amadya, Sulāqā was imprisoned and subjected to every sort of torture for four months. Finally, by order of the Pasha, he was put into a sack and thrown into a lake to drown, about Jan. 12, 1555.

Three Centuries of Conflict. Mar 'Abdīshô of Jezireh succeeded Sulāqā. He was not able to leave for Rome until 1561; he was confirmed there on April 17, 1562, and received the pallium on May 4. In haste to return to his threatened flock, he did not attend the Council of Trent. In 1578 'Abdishô died in the Convent of Saint James the Recluse, where he had established his residence. The electoral synod was prevented by great difficulties from meeting until 1579, when it elected as patriarch the aged Mar Yabalāhā IV, Bishop of Jezireh and administrator of the vacant patriarchate. The new patriarch died in 1580, before confirmation of his appointment could be sent to Rome.

His successor was Simeon IX, Bishop of Gelu, Seert, and Salamas. He and all his flock had recently been converted through the zeal of Elias Asmar, Metropolitan of Diarbekir. The electoral synod commanded Elias Asmar to go to Rome to seek confirmation and the pallium. Simeon IX made the mistake of residing in the Convent of Saint John, near Salamas, where he was the butt of vigorous attacks by the Assyrians. The mountainous terrain and the conflict between Turks and Persians made communication difficult, thereby inhibiting contacts between this patriarch and Rome. Leonard Abel, Archbishop of Sidon and envoy of Pope Gregory XIII since January 1584, unable to reach the patriarch at his residence, sent him the profession of faith, which he signed once again in 1585. Simon IX died in 1600.

As a result of the continuing difficulties, the electoral synod was unable to meet, and the election of Simeon X took place in accordance with hereditary law. The profession of faith that the new patriarch sent to Rome by Thomas, Metropolitan of Diarbekir, was not deemed satisfactory. The Franciscan Thomas Obicini brought the patriarch another formula to sign. He received a most cordial welcome, and the formula was signed on July 28, 1619.

Professions of faith were sent to Rome by Simeon XI in 1653, Simeon XII in 1658, and Simeon XIII in 1670. The last-named besought Pope Clement X to leave the ancient liturgical rites and ecclesial customs intact. The pressure of serious local difficulties made frequent contacts with Rome impossible. Simeon XIII finally felt obliged to return to Assyrian Church. He established himself at Kotchannes, where, ensconced among impenetrable mountains, he became the first of a new series of Assyrian patriarchs.

The Chaldean Catholic Church of Diarbekir was thus left without a shepherd; and an Assyrian bishop, dependent on Rabban-Hormizd, resided in Diarbekir. Yet the Chaldean Catholic community remained favorable to union, as it had been since 1552. It was supported in its loyalty by the work of the Capuchin John Baptist of Saint Aignan. Conversions continued, the most famous being that of Joseph, the Assyrian Bishop of Diarbekir. Opposed, cruelly persecuted, and several times imprisoned at the instigation of the Assyrian Patriarch Elias X, Bishop Joseph received a brief of felicitations from Pope Clement X, dated Jan. 25, 1677. Soon afterward the Sultan acknowledged his right to the title of patriarch of Diarbekir, Mardin, and other places. Joseph besought Rome for confirmation of this title and also for the pallium. At first Rome hesitated, but it granted them to him on Jan. 8, 1681, under the title Patriarchatus nationis chaldaeorum patriarchae regiminis destitutus. Rome did not grant him the title of Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, reserved out of diplomacy for the Assyrian patriarchs, successors of Sulāqā, who resided at Kotchannes, or the title of patriarch of Babylon, reserved for the Assyrian Patriarchs of the Abuāna-Basidi family, who resided at Rabban-Hormizd.

The Chaldeans thus had their own patriarch in the person of Joseph I, the first of the ad interim series of patriarchs of Diarbekir. In 1691 Joseph I, having grown old and wanting to assure the patriarchal succession and thus avoid all possible intrigue after his death, dared to consecrate his coadjutor, Joseph lībā, as patriarch, even before he himself resigned. Because of this irregular procedure, the Holy See did not recognize Joseph II lībā until June 18, 1696. Discouraged by persecutions and difficulties of all sorts, Joseph II asked to retire to Rome. However, stricken with the plague, he died in 1713 before he could leave for Rome.

Timothy Mār Eugene, Bishop of Mardīn since 1691, succeeded him under the name of Joseph III. His patriarchate was marked by great progress. On the occasion of his official visit to Mosul, 3,000 Assyrian Christians were converted, and 3,000 others followed later. The fury of the Assyrian Church knew no bounds, and they had the patriarch imprisoned several times. To make things worse, a decree by the Sultan had just granted Mosul and Aleppo to the Assyrians, giving the Catholics Diarbekir and Mardīn. This made the situation of the Chaldean Catholics in Mosul and Aleppo very critical.

When Joseph III arrived in Rome on Jan. 1, 1732, he offered his resignation, but it was not accepted. The war between the Turks and the Persians obliged him to remain in Rome until the end of 1741, when he returned to his anxious flock. He died on Jan. 23, 1757.

His successor was Lazarus Hindi, Joseph IV. Rome first recognized him by the title of archbishop of Amīd, then as patriarch of the united Chaldeans on March 24, 1759. His resignation, presented on Aug. 21, 1780, was not accepted until Dec. 7, 1781. But not finding anyone to take his place, Rome turned again to Joseph IV and named him patriarchal administrator ad interim. On March 21, 1791, Joseph was called to Rome, and John Hormizd, the neoconvert bishop of Mosul, of the Abūna family, was designated apostolic administrator. Joseph and the clergy of Diarbekir forsaw serious danger for Catholicism in the naming of this neoconvert. In 1792 Joseph went to Rome, and on Feb. 3, 1793, he succeeded in annulling the nomination of John Hormizd and reestablishing himself as Patriarchal administrator of Aīd, with Joseph Attar as his vicar-general. Joseph IV died in 1796.

The 19th and 20th Centuries. In 1802 the priest Augustine Hindi was named administrator of the Patriarchate of Diarbekir. On Sept. 8, 1804, he was consecrated bishop at Mardīn. Following the suspension of John Hormizd (1812), Augustine Hindi was named apostolic delegate for the Chaldeans, a post he held for 15 years. Rome did not want to name him patriarch, for there was hope of one day winning over one of the two Assyrian patriarchs of Kotchannes or Rabban-Hormizd, who had been in correspondence with Rome since 1770 to 1771. The aim was to unite the Chaldeans under a single patriarchate. Meanwhile, Rome rewarded Hindi by granting him the pallium, which it sent to him on Nov. 2, 1818. Seeing in this act his recognition as patriarch, Augustine declared himself Patriarch Joseph V. Rome corrected his error by pointing out to him that the pallium signified nothing more than the rank of archbishop. Augustine died in Diarbekir on April 3, 1827, putting an end to the series of patriarchs of Diarbekir, begun 147 years earlier.

Immediately after Hindi's death, Rome was ready to grant the pallium and patriarchal authority to John Hormizd, the 74-year-old metropolitan of Mosul. The party opposed to John, then represented in Rome by Gabriel Dambo, founder of the Catholic Chaldean Monastic Institute of Rabban-Hormizd, was able to delay the execution of this plan until July 5, 1830. From that date on, John Hormizd, the last of the Abuāna family, was the sole representative of the Chaldean Catholic Church, under the name of John IX Hormizd, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon. He continued the succession that had originated with Addai and Mari in subapostolic times and from which Sulāqā had separated in 1553 to form a union with Rome. To the Assyrians there remained only the Patriarchate of Kotchannes, which continued the succession of Sulāqā that had reverted to the Assyrian Church.

John died on Aug. 16, 1838, after a long and checkered life. His successor was Nicholas Zaya, formerly bishop of Salamas, and coadjutor of John Hormizd, with the right of succession. Nicholas was confirmed on April 27, 1840. The Chaldean bishops were displeased with this choice, which deprived them of their right to a free election. Zaya resigned in 1847 and retired to his former diocese, where he died in 1855.

Joseph Audo, administrator of the patriarchate, was elected patriarch in 1847 and confirmed on Sept. 11, 1848. His long pontificate was marked by many conversions and also by great dissension with Rome, which began in 1860, on questions of jurisdiction, especially over the status of the syro-malabar church. The national synod that he held June 7 to 21, 1858, at the Convent of Rabban-Hormizd, was never approved by Rome. Joseph Audo died on March 14, 1878. Speaking of him at the consistory of Feb. 28, 1879, Leo XIII said, " Quem eximius pietatis et religionis sensus ornabat."

His successor, Elias Peter Abūlyonan, Bishop of Jezireh, was confirmed on Feb. 28, 1879, and died of typhoid fever on June 27, 1894. Elias Peter was succeeded by Abdisho V Khayyāth, who was elected on Oct. 28, 1894, and confirmed on March 28, 1895, and who died in Baghdad on Nov. 6, 1899. Joseph Emmanuel II Thomas, who was unanimously elected on July 9, 1900, and confirmed on Dec. 17, 1900(?), died on July 21, 1947, at age 97; in a decree of July 3, 1902, the Holy See named him apostolic delegate for the Assyrians. He was a member of the Iraqi Senate for 25 years, and his long pontificate was tumultuous, with the massacres of 1918 (World War I), when four bishops, many priests, and 70,000 Chaldean Catholics died.

The spiritual leader of all the Chaldeans in the world is the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, who is assisted: (1) by the Chaldean hierarchy, in the administration of the eparchies, (2) by the patriarchal synods of the entire hierarchy, and, (3) by the permanent synod, which is part of the patriarchal curia. The patriarch is elected by the Chaldean hierarchy and enthroned even before he submits his request to enter into communion with Rome. Canonical election confers on the patriarch the right to the patriarchal office. The patriarch resides in Baghdad, Iraq.

Bibliography: s. giamil, Genuinae relationes inter Sedem Apostolicam et Assyrorum Orientalium seu Chaldaeorum Ecclesiam (Rome 1902). j. m. vostÉ, "Mar Iohannan Soulaqa: Premier Patriarche des Chaldéens," Angelicum 8 (1931) 187234. g. beltrami, La chiesa caldea nel secolo dell'unione (Orientalia Christiana 83; 1933). r. rabban, Shahīd al-Ittihad (Martyr of Union; Mosul 1955), a biography of Sham'un Yohannan Sulāā. abdoulahad, archbishop of amid, "Vie de Mar Youssef Ier: Patriarche des Chaldéens," ed. and tr. j. b. chabot, Revue de l'Orient Chrétien 1.2 (1896) 6690. s. bello, La Congrégation de S. Hormisdas et l'Église chaldéene dans la première moitié siècle (Orientalis Christiana Analecta 122; Rome 1939). d. attwater, The Christian Churches of the East, 2 v. (rev. ed. Milwaukee 196162) v.1. r. roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey (6th ed. Rome 1999).

[r. rabban/eds.]