Assyrian Church of the East

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Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
ܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܖ̈ܝܐ
Qudshanis-Hakkari Mar Shimon house.jpg
Residence of the Patriarch in Qudshanis, Ottoman Empire (1692–1918).
AbbreviationACOE
Classification Eastern Christian
Orientation Syriac Christian
Theology Nestorianism
Catholicos-Patriarch Gewargis III
Archdiocese of India Chaldean Syrian Church of India
RegionCentral Middle East, India; diaspora
Language Syriac, [1] Aramaic
Liturgy East Syrian Rite
Headquarters Ankawa, Erbil, Iraq
Origin Apostolic Era. After the Nestorian Schism the Church of the East declined during the period of splits and mergers following the 12th-14th centuries; then joined the Catholic Church in 1552; then after that, left and reestablished the Church of the East in 1692 independently.
Absorbed Chaldean Syrian Church (1701)
Separations Chaldean Catholic Church (1830) (Elia Line)
Ancient Church of the East (1968)
Members323,300 [2] [ contradictory ]
Official website Official website

The Assyrian Church of the East (Classical Syriac : ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܖ̈ܝܐ, romanized: ʿĒḏtā ḏ-Maḏnḥā ḏ-ʾĀṯūrāyē), officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East [3] (Classical Syriac : ܥܕܬܐ ܩܕܝܫܬܐ ܘܫܠܝܚܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ ܕܐܬܘܪ̈ܝܐ, romanized: ʿĒḏtā Qaddīštā wa-Šlīḥāytā Qāṯōlīqī ḏ-Maḏnḥā ḏ-ʾĀṯūrāyē), is an Eastern Christian Church that follows the traditional christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. [4] It belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and uses the Divine Liturgy of Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari belonging to the East Syrian Rite liturgy. Its main spoken language is Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians.

Eastern Christianity Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. It also includes Reformed Eastern churches such as the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church which follows a reformed West Syriac Rite and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church that uses the Byzantine Rite. Historically called the Eastern Church in contrast with the (Latin) Western Church, since the Protestant Reformation Eastern Christianity is used in contrast with Western Christianity, comprising both the said Latin Church as well as Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. The Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy, meaning the large majority, all self-describe as churches, whereas many Protestant denominations self-describe as congregations or fellowships. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

Christology Study of Jesus Christ in Christian theology

Christology, literally "the understanding of Christ," is the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two natures; and the role he plays in salvation.

Contents

The Church also has an archdiocese based in India, known as the Chaldean Syrian Church of India. The Assyrian Church of the East is officially headquartered in the city of Erbil in northern Iraq; its original area also spread into southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran, corresponding roughly to ancient Assyria. Since 2015, the primate of the Assyrian Church of the East is Catholicos-Patriarch Gewargis III. [1]

Chaldean Syrian Church

The Chaldean Syrian Church of India is an Eastern Christian Church based in Thrissur, India. It is an archbishopric of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is in full communion with its patriarch, Gewargis III.

Erbil Place in Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Erbil (Arabic: أربيل‎; Hewlêr and known in ancient history as Arbela and also spelled Arbil, Arbel and Irbil, is the largest most populated city in Iraqi Kurdistan and capital city of Kurdistan Region. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and the north of Iraq. It has about 879,000 inhabitants, and Erbil Governorate has a permanent population of 2,009,367 as of 2015.

Iraq Republic in Western Asia

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

The Assyrian Church of the East claims continuity with the historical Church of the East, but it is not in communion with either Oriental Orthodoxy or the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has a traditional episcopal structure, headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch. Its hierarchy is composed of metropolitan bishops and diocesan bishops, while lower clergy consists of priests and deacons, who serve in dioceses (eparchies) and parishes throughout the Middle East, India, North America, Oceania, and Europe (including the Caucasus and Russia). [5]

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Metropolitan bishop ecclesiastical office

In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis.

A diocesan bishop, within various Christian traditions, is a bishop or archbishop in pastoral charge of a diocese or archdiocese.

History

A 6th-century Nestorian church, St. John the Arab, in the Assyrian village of Geramon Church of Saint John the Arab.jpg
A 6th-century Nestorian church, St. John the Arab, in the Assyrian village of Geramon

The Assyrian Church of the East considers itself as the continuation of the Church of the East, a church that originally developed among the Assyrians during the first century AD in Assyria, Upper Mesopotamia and northwestern Persia, east of the Byzantine Empire. It is an Apostolic church established by Thomas the Apostle, Thaddeus of Edessa, and Bartholomew the Apostle. Saint Peter, chief of the Apostles, added his blessing to the Church of the East at the time of his visit to the See at Babylon in the earliest days of the Church when stating, "The elect church which is in Babylon, salutes you; and Mark, my son." (1 Peter 5:13). [6]

Church of the East an Eastern Christian Church that in 410 organised itself within the Sasanid Empire and in 424 declared its leader independent of other Christian leaders; from the Persian Empire it spread to other parts of Asia in late antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Church of the East, also called the Persian Church or Nestorian Church, was a Christian church of the East Syriac rite established c. 410. It was one of three major branches of Eastern Christianity that arose from the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th centuries, alongside the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Since the Schism of 1552, there have been several different churches claiming the heritage of the Church of the East.

Assyrian people Ethnic group indigenous to the Near East

Assyrian people, are a Semitic ethnic group indigenous to Assyria, a region in the Middle East. Some self-identify as Syriacs, Arameans, and Chaldeans. Speakers of Neo-Aramaic languages as well as the primary languages in their countries of residence, modern Assyrians are Syriac Christians who claim descent from Assyria, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back to 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

Upper Mesopotamia Northern part of the region between Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now part of Iraq, Syria and Turkey

Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in the northern Middle East. Since the early Muslim conquests of the mid-7th century, the region has been known by the traditional Arabic name of al-Jazira and the Syriac (Aramaic) variant Gāzartā or Gozarto (ܓܙܪܬܐ). The Euphrates and Tigris rivers transform Mesopotamia into almost an island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-Arab in the Basra Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern Turkey are in close proximity.

The historical distinctiveness of the Assyrian Church of the East resulted from the series of complex processes and events that occurred within the Church of the East during the transitional period that started in the middle of the 16th century, and lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. [7] That turbulent period was marked by several consequent splits and mergers, resulting in the creation of separate branches and rival patriarchal lines. During the entire period, one of the main questions of dispute was the union with the Catholic Church. Ultimately, the pro-Catholic branches were consolidated as the Chaldean Catholic Church, while the traditional branches were consolidated as the Assyrian Church of the East. [8]

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Chaldean Catholic Church Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church

The Chaldean Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic particular church in full communion with the Holy See and the rest of the Catholic Church, with the Chaldean Patriarchate having been originally formed out of the Church of the East in 1552. Employing the East Syriac Rite in Syriac language in its liturgy, it is part of Syriac Christianity by heritage. Headquartered in the Cathedral of Mary Mother of Sorrows, Baghdad, Iraq, since 1950, it is headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako. It comprises 640,828 members, mostly Chaldean Christians living in northern Iraq, with smaller numbers in adjacent areas in northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran, a region roughly corresponding to ancient Assyria. There are also many Chaldeans in diaspora in the Western world.

Schisms and branches

During the patriarchal tenure of Shemon VII Ishoyahb (1539–1558), who resided in the ancient Rabban Hormizd Monastery near Alqosh, an internal dissent occurred over several issues, including the question of hereditary succession to the Patriarchal Throne, and the question of union with the Catholic Church. By that time, Franciscan missionaries had already gained some influence over several local communities, [9] and they took an active role in organizing the opposition to the Patriarch at that time. By the end of 1552, a pro-Catholic party had been organized in Mosul under the leadership of the priest Yohannan Sulaqa, [10] who decided to legitimize his position by traveling to Rome and seeking confirmation by Pope Julius III (1550–1555). [11] Receiving support from the Franciscan missionaries, he arrived in Rome and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in February 1553. At that point, officials of the Roman Curia were given incorrect information that the elderly Patriarch Shemon VII had actually died. After some deliberation, the Pope decided to appoint Yohannan Sulaqa as "Patriarch of Babylon" in April 1553. [12]

Shemon VII Ishoyahb Patriarch of the Church of the East

Shemʿon VII Ishoʿyahb was Patriarch of the Church of the East from 1539 to 1558, with residence in Rabban Hormizd Monastery.

Rabban Hormizd Monastery monastery

Rabban Hormizd Monastery is an important monastery of the Chaldean Catholic Church, founded about 640 AD, carved out in the mountains about 2 miles from Alqosh, Iraq, 28 miles north of Mosul. It was the official residence of the patriarchs of the Eliya line of the Church of the East from 1551 to the 18th century, and after the union with Rome in the early 19th century, it became a prominent monastery of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Alqosh Place in Ninawa, Iraq

Alqōsh, alternatively spelled Alkosh, Al-qosh or Alqush, is an Assyrian town in northern Iraq and is within Nineveh Plains. It is a sub-district of the Tel Kaif District and is 45km north of Mosul. The town is controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Peshmerga. In 2014 the mayor of Aqlosh, Faiz Jahwareh, was illegally detained and replaced by KDP member Lara Zara, only to be reinstated after protests by Alqosh residents. Mr Jahwareh was again detained and replaced by the KRG in July 2017 on the basis of false corruption charges that were dismissed by the Iraqi Federal Court. Basim Bello, mayor of nearby Tel Keppe, was also unlawfully removed by the same parties in August 2017, and reinstated by order of the Governor of Nineveh in August 2018.

Upon consecration, Yohannan Sulaqa took the name Shimun and by the end of the year he returned to his homeland. He started to organize the pro-Catholic party by appointing several metropolitans and bishops, [11] thus establishing the first group of hierarchs in the newly created Eastern Catholic Patriarchate of Mosul. That was the seminal event in the early history of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Creation of the separate Eastern-Catholic hierarchy was not welcomed by the traditionalist Patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb; thus an ecclesiastical rivalry between two parties was born, lasting for centuries. Initial splits and conflicts affected both communities and marked the beginning of a long series of splits and mergers within both branches.

The senior Eliya line of Alqosh

Union with Rome was actively opposed by Patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb, who continued to reside in the Rabban Hormizd Monastery near Alqosh. He was succeeded by his nephew Eliya (1558-1591), who was designated as Eliya "VII" in older historiography, but renumbered as Eliya "VI" in recent scholarly works. [13] The same renumbering was applied to his successors, who all took the same name thus creating the Eliya line. During his patriarchal rule, the Eliya line preserved its traditional christology and full ecclesiastical independence. [14] His successor was Patriarch Eliya (VII) VIII (1591–1617), who negotiated on several occasions with the Catholic Church, in 1605 and 1610, and again in 1615-1616, but without any conclusion. [15] Further negotiations were abandoned by the next Patriarch Eliya (VIII) IX (1617–1660). [16] David Wilmshurst noted that his successor, Patriarch Eliya (IX) X (1660–1700) also was a "vigorous defender of the traditional faith". [17]

The Eliya line of traditionalist Patriarchs continued throughout the entire 18th century, residing in the ancient Monastery of Rabban Hormizd - which was eventually attacked and looted in 1743, at the beginning of the Ottoman-Persian War (1743-1746). [18] Faced with a centuries-old rivalry and frequent conflicts between two mighty Islamic empires (Ottoman and Persian), all Christian communities in the bordering regions were constantly exposed to danger - and not only in the times of war, since local, mainly Kurdish, warlords were accustomed to attacking Christian communities and monasteries. Patriarchs Eliya (X) XI (1700–1722) and Eliya (XI) XII (1722–1778) tried to improve the increasingly worsening position of their Christian flock by staying loyal to Ottoman authorities, but local the administration was frequently unable to provide effective protection. [19] The 'Eliya line' of traditionalist Patriarchs ended in 1804 with the death of Eliya (XII) XIII (1778-1804). [20] [13]

The junior Shimun line of Qochanis

During the second half of the 16th century, traditionalist Patriarchs of the Eliya line were faced with the continuous presence of the pro-Catholic movement, led by successors of Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa. After his death in 1555, the newly established line of Patriarchs who were united with the Catholic Church was continued by Abdisho IV Maron (1555-1570), who remained in full communion with the Catholic Church. He visited Rome and was officially confirmed by the Pope in 1562. [21] Soon after his death, connections with Rome were weakened for the first time during the tenure of Patriarch Yahballaha V who did not seek confirmation from the Pope. [22] That interlude was ended by his successor Shimun IX Dinkha (1580-1600) who restored full communion with the Catholic Church, and was officially confirmed by the Pope in 1584. [23]

After his death, the Patriarchal office was made hereditary, and Patriarchs of this line continued to use the name Shimun, thus creating the 'Shimun line'. Hereditary succession was not acceptable to Rome, and during the tenure of the next Patriarch Shimun X Eliyah (1600-1638) ties with Catholic Church were loosened again. In 1616, Shimun X signed a traditional profession of faith that was not accepted by the Pope, leaving the Patriarch without Rome's confirmation. [24] His successor Shimun XI Eshuyow (1638–1656) restored communion with the Catholic Church as late as 1653, eventually receiving confirmation from the Pope. [17] By that time, movement towards full commitment to the traditional faith was constantly growing stronger within the Shimun line. When the next Patriarch Shimun XII Yoalaha decided to send his profession of faith to the Pope, he was deposed by his bishops because of his pro-Catholic attitude. The Pope tried to intervene on his behalf, but without success. [17]

Final resolution of conflicts within the Shimun line occurred under the next Patriarch Shimun XIII Dinkha (1662-1700), who definitively broke communion with the Catholic Church. In 1670, he gave a traditionalist reply to an approach that was made from the Pope, and by 1672 all connections with the Catholic Church were terminated. [25] [26] At the same time, Patriarch Shimun XIII moved his seat from Amid to Qochanis. After the final return to the traditional faith, Patriarchs of the Shimun line decided to keep their independence and after that time there were two independent lines of traditional Patriarchs - the senior Eliya line in Alqosh and the junior Shimun line in Qochanis. [27]

Such division was additionally caused by the complex structure of local Assyrian communities, traditionally organized as tribal confederations with each tribe being headed by a local lord (malik), while each malik was ultimately subject to the Patriarch, who mediated between Assyrian Christians and the Ottoman authorities. [28] In spite of the prolonged rivalry between two patriarchal lines, they often faced similar problems and during the 18th century occasional cooperation was achieved, paving the way for the restoration of unity.

Consolidation of remaining branches

Mar Elias (Eliya), the Nestorian bishop of the Urmia Plain village of Geogtapa, c.1831. The image comes from A Residence of Eight Years in Persia Among the Nestorians, with Notes of the Mohammedans by Justin Perkins (Andover, 1843). Assyrianmareliasnestorianbishop.jpg
Mar Elias (Eliya), the Nestorian bishop of the Urmia Plain village of Geogtapa, c.1831. The image comes from A Residence of Eight Years in Persia Among the Nestorians, with Notes of the Mohammedans by Justin Perkins (Andover, 1843).

In 1780, at the beginning of the Patriarchal tenure of Eliya (XII) XIII (1778-1804), a group seceded from the Eliya line in Alqosh and elected Yohannan Hormizd, who entered full communion with the Catholic Church and was officially appointed Archbishop of Mosul and Patriarchal Administrator of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in 1783. Only after the death in 1827 of the last representative of the 'Josephite line', Joseph V Augustine Hindi, was Yohannan recognized as the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch by the Pope, in 1830. By this official appointment, the final merger of various factions committed to the union with the Catholic Church was achieved, thus forming the modern Chaldean Catholic Church.

At the same time, the long coexistence and rivalry between two traditionalist Patriarchal branches - the senior Eliya line of Alqosh and the junior Shimun line of Qochanis - ended in 1804 when the last primate of the Eliya line, Patriarch Eliya (XII) XIII died and was buried in the ancient Rabban Hormizd Monastery. His branch decided not to elect new Patriarch, thus enabling the remaining Patriarch Shimun XVI Yohannan (1780-1820) of the Shimun line to become the sole primate of both Assyrian traditionalist branches. [29] [30] [27] Consolidated after 1804, the reunited traditionalist church led by Patriarchs of the Shimun line became widely known as the 'Assyrian Church of the East'. Still based in Qodchanis, Assyrian Patriarch Shimun XVI Yohannan was not able to secure control over the traditional seat of the former Eliya line in the ancient Rabban Hormizd Monastery; and around 1808 that venerated monastic institution passed to the Chaldean Catholics. [31]

The next Assyrian Patriarch Shimun XVII Abraham (1820-1861) also led his Church from Qodshanis. During years marked by political turbulence, he tried to maintain good relations with the local Ottoman authorities. In 1843, he was faced with renewed hostilities from Kurdish warlords, who attacked and looted many Christian villages, killing 10,000 Christian men and taking away women and children as captives. The Patriarch himself was forced to take temporary refuge in Mosul. [32] He was succeeded by Patriarch Shimun XVIII Rubil (1861-1903) who also resided in Qodshanis. In 1869, he received an open invitation from the Vatican to visit Rome to attend the First Vatican Council as an observer, but he did not accept the invitation, [33] In following years, he also rejected other initiatives for union with the Catholic Church. [34]

By the end of 19th century, the Assyrian Church of the East consolidated itself as the sole representative of all traditionalist Assyrians. It also managed to secure a certain level of autonomy within the highly complex system of Ottoman local governance in the bordering regions. [35] On several occasions, Assyrian Patriarchs refused to enter communion with the Catholic Church or merge with the Chaldean Catholic Church. [27] On the other hand, by the end of 19th century some of its communities were converted to Protestantism by various western missionaries, [36] while other communities were drawn to Eastern Orthodoxy. That movement was led by Assyrian Bishop Mar Yonan of Supurghan in the region of Urmia, who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1898, through the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Urmia. [37] Activities of foreign missions among Assyrians represented not only a religious, but also a political challenge, since the Ottoman authorities were very suspicious of any foreign presence among their Christian subjects.

20th century

St. Mary Assyrian Church in Moscow. In spite of both ethnic and religious persecution and a serious decline in membership since their height around the fourth century, the Assyrian Church of the East has survived into the 21st century. Tserkov' Mat Mar'iam na Dubrovke.jpg
St. Mary Assyrian Church in Moscow. In spite of both ethnic and religious persecution and a serious decline in membership since their height around the fourth century, the Assyrian Church of the East has survived into the 21st century.

Among all the tragedies and schisms which thinned the Church out, no other was as severe as the Assyrian genocide. At that point the Assyrian Church of the East was based in the mountains of Hakkari, as it had been since 1681. In 1915, The Young Turks invaded the region - despite the Assyrians' plea of neutrality during the Caucasus Campaign by Russia and their Armenian allies - out of fear of an Assyrian independence movement. In response to this, Assyrians of all denominations (the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and Assyrian Protestants) entered into a war of independence and allied themselves with the United Kingdom, the Russian Empire and the Armenians against the Ottomans and their Islamic Kurdish, Iranian and Arab allies. Despite the odds, the Assyrians fought successfully against the Ottomans and their allies for three years throughout southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria. Eventually, however, they were abandoned by their allies, the Russian Empire and the First Republic of Armenia, due to the Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Armenian defense, leaving the Assyrians vastly outnumbered, surrounded, and cut off from supplies of ammunition and food. During this period, their see at Qodchanis was completely destroyed and the Turks and their Islamic allies massacred all of the Assyrians in the Hakkari Mountains. Those who survived fled into Iran with what remained of the Assyrian defense under Agha Petros, but they were pursued into Iranian territory despite the fact they were fleeing. Later, in 1918, after the murder of their de facto leader and Patriarch Shimun XIX Benyamin and 150 of his followers during a negotiation, fearing further massacres at the hands of the Turks and Kurds, most of the survivors fled by train from Iran into what was to become Iraq. They sought protection under the British mandate there, and joined the already existing indigenous Assyrian communities of both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic rites in the north, where they formed communities in Baghdad, Basra, and other areas. [38]

Assyrians were some of the British Administration's most loyal subjects, so they employed Assyrian troops ("Iraq Levies") to put down Arab and Kurdish rebellions in the aftermath of World War I and to protect the Turkish and Iranian borders of British Iraq from invasion. In consequence, Assyrians of all Christian denominations endured persecution under the Hashemites, culminating in the Simele massacre in 1933, leading thousands to flee to the West, in particular to the United States. Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai himself went into exile in 1940–1941 and relocated the Patriarchate to Chicago which became the centre of the Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac diaspora. [39] However, the Assyrians who remained continued to work alongside the British, even playing a major role in bringing down the pro-Nazi Iraqi forces during World War II, and they remained attached to British forces until 1955.

Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai

During this period, the British-educated Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai, born into the line of Patriarchs at Qodchanis, agitated for an independent Assyrian state. Following the end of the British mandate in 1933 [38] and a massacre of Assyrian civilians at Simele by the Iraqi Army, the Patriarch was forced to take refuge in Cyprus. [40] There, Shimun petitioned the League of Nations regarding his people's fate, but to little avail, and he was consequently barred from entering Syria and Iraq. He traveled through Europe before moving to Chicago in 1940 to join the growing Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac community there. [40]

Due to the Church's and the general Assyrian community's disorganized state as a result of the conflicts of the 20th century, Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai was forced to reorganize the Church's structure in the United States. He transferred his residence to San Francisco in 1954, and was able to travel to Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, and India, where he worked to strengthen the Church. [41]

In 1964, the Patriarch decreed a number of changes to the Church, including liturgical reform, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, and the shortening of Lent. These changes, combined with Shimun's long absence from Iraq, caused a rift in the community there, which led to another schism. In 1968, traditionalists within the church elected Thoma Darmo as a rival Patriarch to Shimun XXI Eshai, forming the independent Ancient Church of the East, based in Baghdad, Iraq. [42]

In 1972, Shimun decided to step down as Patriarch, and the following year he got married - in contravention to longstanding Church custom. This led to a synod in 1973 in which further reforms were introduced, the most significant of which included the permanent abolition of hereditary succession - a practice introduced in the middle of the fifteenth century by Patriarch Shemʿon IV Basidi (who had died in 1497) - and it was also decided that Shimun should be reinstated. The second matter was supposed to be settled at another synod in 1975; however, Shimun was assassinated by an estranged relative before this could take place. [43]

Patriarch Dinkha IV

In 1976, Dinkha IV was elected as Shimun XXI Eshai's successor. The 33-year-old Dinkha had previously been Metropolitan of Tehran, and operated his see there until the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. Thereafter, Dinkha IV went into exile in the United States and transferred the Patriarchal See to Chicago. [44] Much of his patriarchate had been concerned with tending to the Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac diaspora community and with ecumenical efforts to strengthen relations with other churches. [44] On 26 March 2015, Dinkha IV died in the United States, leaving the Assyrian Church of the East in a period of sede vacante until 18 September 2015. During that time, Aprem Mooken served as the custodian of the Patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. [45] [46]

Patriarch Gewargis III

On 18 September 2015, the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East elected the Metropolitan of Iraq, Jordan, and Russia, Warda Sliwa, to succeed the late Dinkha IV as Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. On 27 September 2015, he was consecrated as Catholicos-Patriarch in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist, in Erbil, Iraq. Upon his consecration, he assumed the ecclesiastical name Gewargis III.

Church leaders have proposed moving the Patriarchal See from Chicago back to Erbil. [47]

There have also been talks of reunification. In the Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East in 1994, the two Churches recognized the legitimacy and rightness of each other's titles for Mary. [48]

In 2010, the Assyrian Church of the East had about 170,000 members, mostly living in the United States, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. [49] [ contradictory ]

Doctrine

Theologically, the Assyrian Church of the East still adheres to the Church of the East's traditional Christology, that is often labeled as Nestorian. The use and exact meaning of that term has been the subject of many debates - not only throughout history but also in modern times - since the Assyrian Church of the East has distinctive views on several christological questions and claims that its theological doctrines and traditions are essentially orthodox, while admitting the need for further inter-Christian dialog that would resolve various questions in the field of comparative christological terminology. [50] Unlike most other churches that trace their origins to antiquity, the modern Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other Church.

The Nestorian nature of Assyrian Christianity remains a matter of contention. Elements of the Nestorian doctrine were explicitly repudiated by Patriarch Dinkha IV on the occasion of his accession in 1976. [51]

The Christology of the Church of the East has its roots in the Antiochene theological tradition of the early Church. The founders of Assyrian theology are Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, both of whom taught at Antioch. 'Antiochene' is a modern designation given to the style of theology associated with the early Church at Antioch, as contrasted with the theology of the Church of Alexandria. [52]

Antiochene theology emphasizes Christ's humanity and the reality of the moral choices he faced. In order to preserve the impassibility of Christ's Divine Nature, the unity of His person is defined in a looser fashion than in the Alexandrian tradition. [52] The normative Christology of the Assyrian church was written by Babai the Great (551–628) during the controversy that followed the 431 Council of Ephesus. Babai held that within Christ there exist two qnômâ (ܩܢܘܡܐ) (Syriac equivalent for Greek term hypostasis), unmingled, but everlastingly united in the one prosopon (personality) of Christ.

The precise Christological teachings of Nestorius are shrouded in obscurity. Wary of monophysitism, Nestorius rejected Cyril's theory of a hypostatic union, proposing instead a union of will. Nestorianism has come to mean radical dyophysitism, in which Christ's two natures are eternally separate, though it is doubtful whether Nestorius ever taught such a doctrine. Nestorius' rejection of the term Theotokos ('God-bearer', or 'Mother of God') has traditionally been held as evidence that he asserted the existence of two persons – not merely two natures – in Jesus Christ, but there exists no evidence that Nestorius denied Christ's oneness. [53] In the controversy that followed the Council of Ephesus, the term 'Nestorian' was applied to all doctrine upholding a strictly Antiochene Christology. In consequence, the Church of the East was labelled 'Nestorian', though its theology is not radically dyophysite.

Liturgy

The church employs the Syriac dialect of Eastern Aramaic in its liturgy, the East Syrian Rite, which includes three anaphoras, attributed to Thaddeus (Addai) and Mari, Theodore of Mopsuestia and later also Nestorius. [38]

Iconography

The Assyrian Church of the East does not currently make great use of icons, but they are present in its tradition. Opposition to religious images eventually became the norm due to the rise of Islam in the region, which forbade any type of depictions of Saints and biblical prophets. As such, the Church was forced to get rid of her icons. [54]

A Nestorian Peshitta Gospel book written in Estrangela, from the 13th century, currently resided at the State Library of Berlin. This illustrated manuscript from northern Mesopotamia or Tur Abdin proves that in the 13th century the church was not yet aniconic. [55] Another Nestorian Gospel manuscript preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which contains an illustration that depicts Jesus Christ (not a crucifix) in the circle of a ringed cross (in the form of celtic cross) surrounded by four angels. [56]

Three Syriac manuscripts from early 19th century and earlier—they were edited into a compilation titled The Book of Protection by Hermann Gollancz— containing a number of illustrations which are more or less crude. These manuscripts prove the continuous use of images. Moreover, a life-size male stucco figure was discovered in a church of Seleucia-Ctesiphon from the late 6th century. Beneath this church were found the remains of an earlier church. Although it cannot be determined which Nestorian church was involved, the discovery nevertheless proves that the Church of the East also used figurative representations. [55]

Organization

The Church is governed by an episcopal polity, the same as other Apostolic Churches. The Church maintains a system of geographical parishes organized into dioceses and archdioceses. The Catholicos-Patriarch is the head of the church. The Synod is composed of Bishops who oversee individual dioceses and Metropolitans who oversee episcopal dioceses in their territorial jurisdiction.

The Chaldean Syrian Church, which encompasses India and the Persian Gulf, is the largest diocese of the church. Its history goes back to the Church of the East that established a presence in Kerala, but the two communities maintained only a sporadic connection for several centuries, and consistent relations were only established with the arrival of the Portuguese in India around 1500. The Church is represented by the Assyrian Church of the East and is in communion with it.

Membership is estimated to 170,000, [49] although some sources say as high as 500,000 [57]

Hierarchy

The current hierarchy and dioceses are as follows. The Patriarchal Seat was moved several times throughout history. Up to the 1804, Patriarchs of the senior Eliya line resided in the ancient Rabban Hormizd Monastery, while Patriarchs of the junior Shimun line resided in the Cathedral Church of Mar Shallita, in the village of Qudshanis in the Hakkari Mountains of the Ottoman Empire, and continued to do so up to the First World War. After the beginning of conflict in 1915, the Patriarchs temporarily resided between Urmia and Salmas, and after 1918 the Patriarchs resided in Mosul. After the Simele Massacre of 1933, the then Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai was exiled to Cyprus due to his agitation for independence. In 1940 he was welcomed to the United States where he set up his residence in Chicago, and administered the United States and Canada as his Patriarchal Province. The Patriarchate was then moved to Modesto, California in 1954, and finally to San Francisco in 1958 due to health issues. After the assassination of the Patriarch and the election of Dinkha IV in 1976, the Patriarchate was temporarily located in Tehran, where the new Patriarch was living at the time. After the Iran–Iraq War and the Iranian Revolution, the Patriarchate again returned to Chicago, where it remained until 2015, when it reestablished itself in the Middle East by organizing in Erbil's Ankawa district in Iraq after the enstatement of Gewargis III. The Diocese of Eastern United States served as the Patriarch's province from 1994 until 2012.

Due to the unstable political, religious and economic situation in the Church's historical homeland of the Middle East, many of the Church members now reside in Western countries. Churches and dioceses have been established throughout Europe, America, and Oceania. [5] The largest expatriate concentration of Church members is in the United States, mainly situated in Illinois and California.

Archdioceses

  1. Archdiosese of India Chaldean Syrian Church – it remains in communion and is the biggest province of the Church with close to 30 active churches, primary and secondary schools, hospitals etc.
  2. Archdiocese of Iraq – covers the indigenous territory of the church in Iraq. The archdiocese's territory includes the cities and surroundings of Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and Mosul.
  3. Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon – Established in October 1984.

Dioceses

  1. Diocese of Syria – jurisdiction lies throughout all Syria, particularly in the al-Hasakah Governorate, where most of the community resides in al-Hasakah, Qamishli and the 35 villages along the Khabur River. There are also small communities in Damascus and Aleppo
  2. Diocese of Iran – territory includes the capital Tehran, the Urmia and Salmas plains
  3. Diocese of Nohadra and Russia – established in 1999 with jurisdiction includes the indigenous communities of Dohuk and Erbil, along with Russia and ex-Soviet states such as Armenia and Georgia.
  4. Diocese of Eastern Europe – its territory lies in western Europe and includes close to [5] sovereign states: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Norway.
  5. Diocese of Eastern USA – formerly the Patriarchal Archdiocese from 1994 until 2012. The territory includes the large Illinois community, along with smaller parishes in Michigan, New England and New York.
  6. Diocese of California – jurisdiction includes parishes in Western USA and northern California. Some of the parishes are San Francisco, San Jose, Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Seattle, and Sacramento.
  7. Diocese of Western USA-South – jurisdiction includes parishes in Arizona and southern California.
  8. Diocese of Canada – includes the territory of Toronto, Windsor, Hamilton and all Canada
  9. Diocese of Victoria and New Zealand – includes Melbourne and New Zealand

10 Diocese of Western Europe - its territory lies in western Europe and includes close to [5] sovereign states: Includes [Great Britain], [France], [Belgium], [Austria], [The Netherlands] and [Greece]

Members of the Holy Synod

Mar Gewargis Sliwa: 121st Catholicos-Patriarch

Ecumenical relations

Pope John XXIII invited many other Christian denominations, including the Assyrian Church of the East, to send "observers" to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). These observers, graciously received and seated as honored guests right in front of the podium on the floor of the council chamber, did not participate in the Council's debate, but they mingled freely with the Catholic bishops and theologians who constituted the Council, and with the other observers as well, in the break area during the Council sessions. There, cordial conversations began a rapprochement that has blossomed into expanding relations among the Catholic Church, the Churches of the Orthodox Communion, and the ancient Churches of the East.[ citation needed ]

On November 11, 1994, a historic meeting between Patriarch Dinkha IV and Pope John Paul II took place in Rome. The two patriarchs signed a document titled "Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East". One side effect of this meeting was that the Assyrian Church's relationship with the fellow Chaldean Catholic Church began to improve. [59]

In 1996, Patriarch Dinkha IV signed an agreement of cooperation with the Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch of Baghdad, Raphael I Bidawid, in Southfield, Michigan, Bidawid himself being keen to heal theological divisions among Assyrians of all denominations. In 1997, he entered into negotiations with the Syriac Orthodox Church and the two churches ceased anathematizing each other.

The lack of a coherent institution narrative in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, which dates to apostolic times, has caused many Western Christians, and especially Roman Catholics, to doubt the validity of this anaphora, used extensively by the Assyrian Church of the East, as a prayer of consecration of the eucharistic elements. In 2001, after a study of this issue, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, promulgated a declaration approved by Pope John Paul II stating that this is a valid anaphora. This declaration opened the door to a joint synodal decree officially implementing the present Guidelines for Admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, [60] which the synods of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church signed and promulgated on 20 July 2001.

This joint synodal decree provided that:

  1. Assyrian faithful may participate and receive Holy Communion in a Chaldean celebration of the Holy Eucharist
  2. Chaldean catholic faithful may participate and receive Holy Communion in an Assyrian Church celebration of the Holy Eucharist, even if celebrated using the Anaphora of Addai and Mari in its original form
  3. Assyrian clergy are invited (but not obliged) to insert the institution narrative into the Anaphora of Addai and Mari when Chaldean faithful are present.

The joint synodal decree identified several issues that require resolution to permit a relationship of full communion, [lower-alpha 1] though from an ecumenical perspective it marks a major step toward full collaboration in the pastoral care of their members.

See also

Notes

  1. From a Catholic canonical point of view, provisions of the joint synodal decree are fully consistent with the provisions of canon 671 of the 1991 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which states: "If necessity requires it or genuine spiritual advantage suggests it and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is permitted for Catholic Christian faithful, for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers, in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. 3. Likewise Catholic ministers licitly administer the Sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick to Christian faithful of Eastern Churches, who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask for them on their own and are properly disposed." Canons 843 and 844 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make similar provisions for the Latin Church. The Assyrian Church of the East follows an open communion approach, allowing any baptized Christian to receive its Eucharist after confessing the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [61] so there is also no alteration of Assyrian practice.

Related Research Articles

Catholicos, plural Catholicoi, is a title used for the head of certain churches in some Eastern Christian traditions. The title implies autocephaly and in some cases it is the title of the head of an autonomous church. The word comes from ancient Greek καθολικός, pl. καθολικοί, derived from καθ' ὅλου from κατά and ὅλος, meaning "concerning the whole, universal, general"; it originally designated a financial or civil office in the Roman Empire. The name of the Catholic Church comes from the same word - however, the title "Catholicos" does not exist in its hierarchy.

Syriac Christianity

Syriac Christianity is the form of Eastern Christianity whose formative theological writings and traditional liturgy are expressed in the Syriac language. Syriac Christianity consists of two liturgical rites, the East Syriac Rite and the West Syriac Rite. The main Anaphora of the East Syriac tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Saints Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syriac tradition is the Divine Liturgy of Saint James.

Dinkha IV 20th- and 21st-century Patriarch of the Church of the East

Mar Dinkha IV, born Dinkha Khanania, was the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. He was born in the village of Darbandokeh (Derbendoki), Iraq and lead the Church in exile in Chicago for most of his life.

Ancient Church of the East eastern christian denomination

The Ancient Church of the East, officially the Ancient Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East, is an Eastern Christian denomination founded by Thoma Darmo in 1968.

Yohannan VIII Hormizd Patriarch of Chaldean Catholic Church

Mar Yohannan VIII Hormizd (1760–1838) was the last hereditary patriarch of the Eliya line of the Church of the East and the first patriarch of a united Chaldean Church. After succeeding his uncle Eliya XII Denha in 1780 as patriarch of Mosul, he made a Catholic profession of faith and was recognised in 1783 by the Vatican as patriarchal administrator and archbishop of Mosul. His career as patriarchal administrator was controversial, and was marked by a series of conflicts with his own bishops and also with the Vatican. Suspended from his functions in 1812 and again in 1818, he was reinstated by the Vatican in 1828. In 1830, following the death of the Amid patriarchal administrator Augustine Hindi, he was recognised by the Vatican as patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and the Mosul and Amid patriarchates were united under his leadership. This event marked the birth of the since unbroken patriarchal line of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Yohannan Hormizd died in 1838 and his successor Nicholas I Zayʿa was chosen by the Vatican, ending the centuries-old practice of hereditary succession in the Eliya line of the Church of the East.

Mar Yousip I was the first incumbent of the Josephite line of Church of the East, thus being considered the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church from 1681 to 1696.

MarShimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa was the first Patriarch of the Church of Assyria and Mosul, what was to become the Chaldean Catholic Church, from 1553 to 1555, after it absorbed this Church of the East patriarchate into full communion with the Holy See and the Catholic Church.

For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the district of Salmas in northwest Iran was an archdiocese of the Chaldean Catholic Church, now apart of the Chaldean Catholic Archeparchy of Urmyā.

Dioceses of the Church of the East after 1552

After the schism of 1552 of the Church of the East, the secessions the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East each had around twelve dioceses each by the end of the 19th century.

DINAmadiya was a separate eparchy (diocese) of the Chaldean Catholic Church until it was united with the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Zakho in 2013.

Diocese of Berwari was an East Syriac diocese of the Church of the East, existing between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries and covering the region of Berwari.

Aqra, properly ʿAqra, is a diocese of the Chaldean Church founded in the mid-19th century.

The Patriarch of the Church of the East was a patriarch of the Church of the East (410-1552), seated in Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

Shimun XVI Yohannan Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East

Mar Shimun XVI Yohannan was Patriarch of the Qodshanis branch of the Assyrian Church of the East from 1780, and since 1804 he remained the sole Catholicos-Patriarch, because the last patriarch of the rival Eliya line Eliya XIII Ishoyahb died without successor. Shimun XVI remained patriarch until his death in 1820.

References

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