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The Eastern Catholic Churches / The Chaldean Catholic Church

The Chaldean Catholic Church

Number of believersapprox. 650,000
Title of First HierarchPatriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans
See of the First HierarchBaghdad (Iraq)
Current incumbentCardinal Louis Raphael Sako, born 1948, in office since 2013
Bishops and dioceses24 bishops; 19 dioceses
RiteEast Syrian
Liturgy languageSyriac
Presence in Austriaapprox. 350 faithful; 2 parishes, 1 priest
Presence in Germanyapprox. 8,000 faithful; 12 parishes, 5 priests

The emergence of the Chaldean Church is to be understood against the background of the numerous contacts between the East Syrians and the "Western" Christians (from their perspective, this included not only the Latins, but also the Byzantines and West Syrians) and despite the process of alienation that started early on between the East Syrian Christians and the church traditions native to the Imperium Romanum. On the part of the Roman Church, Dominicans and Franciscans established contact with the East Syriac Church in the 13th century. Their encounters led to the resumption of communion by individual bishops of the East Syriac Church with the Roman See, however they did manage to achieve a lasting union. This also applies to the union with Rome concluded in 1340 by the East Syriac Christians living in Cyprus. Although, this was renewed again at the Council of Florence in 1445, a large proportion of the Uniates turned away from Rome just five years later. The union agreement of 1445 is only of importance today insofar as the term "Chaldeans" has been used for the East Syrians united with Rome ever since.

Only in the middle of the 16th century, could the Chaldean hierarchy united with Rome, be permanently established. The impetus for the union with Rome was the dissatisfaction of a number of East Syrian bishops with the "inheritance" of the patriarchal title from uncle to nephew, which had become common since the 15th century. In 1552 three East Syrian bishops elected the monk Johannes Sulaqa as anti-patriarch. With the help of the Franciscans, he traveled to Rome, where Pope Julius III. consecrated him "Patriarch of the Chaldeans" in 1553. After his return, Johannes Sulaqa took up residence in Diyabakir (in the east of today's Turkey) but was assassinated in 1555 at the instigation of the opponents of the Union. Nevertheless, it was made possible to establish a Chaldean hierarchy, which lived in constant confrontation with the Assyrian hierarchy for the next 250 years and whose line also broke off several times during this period. It was not until 1830, when Pope Pius VIII confirmed the Chaldean Patriarchate and the patriarchal seat was moved to Mosul, that the situation stabilized to a certain extent.

During and after the end of World War I, Chaldeans and Assyrians alike suffered persecution from the Turks and Kurds, who suspected them of collaborating with the British. The massacre of thousands of faithful belonging to both churches and the gradual reconstruction of church structures in the diaspora led to a rapprochement between the two churches of East Syrian tradition in the 20th century. Today, Assyrians and Chaldeans emphasize their common roots in the East Syriac rite and cooperate closely together, especially in the diaspora, in pastoral and spiritual care. The limited sacramental communion between Assyrians and Chaldeans granted by Rome in 2001 further deepened their in-between them relationship.


  • J. Seferta, The Chaldean Church of Iraq. A Story of Survival, Oxford 2008.
  • W. Hage, Die Chaldäisch-Katholische Kirche, in: ders., Das orientalische Christentum, Stuttgart 2007, 398-407.
  • W. Baum / D. W. Winkler, Die Apostolische Kirche des Ostens. Geschichte der sog. Nestorianer, Klagenfurt 2000, 101-110.