The Chaldean Church

From Ur of the Chaldeans Abraham wandered with his family and flocks into the Land of Canaan at the command of the Lord. He is the father of nations: the Israelites, and the Ishmaelites. Here’s found the Chaldean Church, also called East Syrian Church.

The Mesopotamian region was evangelized in the second half of the first century. According to tradition, on his way to India St Thomas the Apostle established Christianity in Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Persia, and left Thaddeus, one of the seventy apostles, and Maris in charge.

The antagonism between the Byzantine Empire and Persia threatened the ties of the Church of the East that belonged to the Patriarchate of Antioch. In the 5th century, there was a theological controversy about the nature of Christ. According to one school the two natures of Christ, human and divine are separate. And Mary was mother only to the human person of Christ, thus not a mother of God. Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, favoured this.

Emperor Theodosius summoned a Council at Ephesus in 431 to address the issue. The Council affirmed the union of two natures in one person Jesus Christ and Mary was declared Mother of God, Theotokos.

Nestorius was condemned but his teaching spread in Persia and Mesopotamia.

The Eastern Church gave in easily to the Nestorian heresy largely due to its revolt to the imperial Church of Constantinople. It rejected the decree of the Council in option for the Nestorian Heresy, forming what would be known Nestorian Church.

The Church that was governed by a Catholicos under the patriarch of Antioch became independent and the Catholicos assumed the title of Patriarch of the East. For centuries the Church flourished and spread throughout Persia, Tartary, Mongolia, China, and India. Isolated, it developed in its own ways, untouched by the rest of the Christian world.

In 634 Arab Muslims conquered the whole region of Mesopotamia and established Muslim rule. Subjected to persecution and repression, the once flourishing church faltered. Out of this Church some groups, known today as Chaldeans, came into communion with Rome. Its mother church is still called Assyrian Church.

The Chaldean and Assyrian Churches share similar liturgies of the East Syriac origin though the Chaldeans have modified them to conform to the theology of Ephesus and later Councils.

In November, 1994, Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, and Pope John Paul II agreed on the unity of two natures in the person Jesus Christ and that Mary is the Mother of God.

Characteristic of the Liturgy of the Church of the East is the absence of words of consecration: This is my Body and This is my Blood. This made the Roman Catholic Church until 2001consider this mass invalid. The Cardinal for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then, Joseph Ratsinger, declared it valid so that in certain circumstances Roman Catholics can receive communion in this Church.

Chaldean Catholic Church

The Chaldean Catholic Church or Chaldean Church of Babylon is historically the former Nestorians that have come back into communion with the Catholic Church.

In the 15th century the Chaldean Church decreed that the title of Patriarch could pass only to relatives of then-patriarch Mar Simon IV. In 1552, a group of bishops refused to accept the hereditary succession of a boy as Patriarch. They elected Mar John VIII Sulaqa, the superior of an abbey as Patriarch who sought communion with Rome. Since then there were two opposing patriarchs till Mar Simon XIII Dinkha broke communion with Rome in 1662. The Vatican appointed another to be in charge of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In 1830 Pius VIII confirmed John Hormizdas as head of Chaldean Catholics, with the title Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.


 Syro-Malabar Church

The Syro-Malabar Church is self-governing Catholic Church headed by an Archbishop, hence the name, Major Archiepiscopal Church. It is the largest group among the Saint Thomas Christians who trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle who evangelised India in 52 A.D.

The Thomas Christians followed the liturgy of the Syrian Churches of Eastern rites and depended on the bishops from the East but only for spiritual affairs. The administrative head of the community was the local priest called Archdeacon who governed through Palliyogam system –a synod of the clergy and the laity.

This balance was upset only with the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries in 1498. They found St Thomas Christians only in Malabar who were friendly to them but later conflicts arose because the Portuguese Jesuits forced to Latinize these Christians and cut their connection with East Syrian Church. They introduced the Latin liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians and a Latin bishop of Goa imposed himself on them beyond his jurisdiction, disregarding the local hierarchy. This forced communion with Rome managed only to fragment the Church.

The Thomas Christians revolted. In 1653 some of them took a Koonan Cross Oath by which they would no longer obey the Portuguese missionaries. And when an Antiochian bishop, Mar Gregorios, came to India the breakaway group led by Thomas who had succeeded Archdeacon George; welcomed him and embraced West Syrian Christianity. From this group originate the: Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church (Jacobite), Indian Orthodox Church, Marthoma Church, Syro Malankara Catholic Church.

The Syro-Malabar Church is that group that remained in communion with Rome. In 1923 Pius XI established the Syro-Malabar Church as an autonomous particular Church. Since then they have strived to restore the liturgy as it was before the arrival of the Portuguese. In 1957 Pius XII approved their renewed liturgy, based on the East Syrian tradition and John Paul II raised the Syro-Malabar Church to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church on 16 December 1992.