Chaldean Eastern Catholics

Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Ankawa near Erbil, Iraq
Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Ankawa near Erbil, Iraq. Source: Basharh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Chaldean Eastern Catholic Church, also known as the 'Chaldean Catholic Church', came into existence in 1551 following a dispute with the Assyrian Church of the East. Dissidents of the Assyrian Church of the East formed a separate church which was recognised by the Roman Catholic Church and was later called ‘Chaldean’. The term ‘Chaldean’ refers only to the church of its faithful, and contrary to some claims that it refers to the ethnicity of its followers, it bears no connection to ethnic Chaldeans, who were an ancient people of south east Mesopotamia and who became extinct around 550 BC.

Modern Chaldeans are ethnically Assyrians and originated from ancient Assyrian peoples living in the north of Iraq, which was known as Assyria from the 25th century BC onwards. The disassociation of some Chaldean Catholics from their ethnicity as Assyrians and their rejection of their Assyrian heritage has resulted in confusing a religious term with ethnicity, and presented divisions within communities.

The number of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq has been estimated at around half a million and smaller numbers in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan. However, numbers are declining rapidly, as hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians have fled Iraq since the ousting of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent rise of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

The common language of communication within the Chaldean Catholic Church is Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. However, few people study Aramaic or use it as a written language. The Church’s liturgical books, hymns and prayers are reproduced in Arabic and English.

Religious Observances

Fr Habib, a Chaldean Catholic Priest from Iraq, prays for a church member
Fr Habib, a Chaldean Catholic Priest from Iraq, prays for a church member. Source: Gabr-elGabr-el at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The Chaldean Catholic Church celebrates nine liturgical seasons, each with special prayers and readings from the Scriptures:

  1. Soubara (Nativity)
  2. Denha (Epiphany)
  3. Saouma (Lent)
  4. Qyamta (the Resurrection)
  5. Shlile (the Apostles)
  6. Qayta (Summer)
  7. Elya/Sliwa (Elia/Cross)
  8. Moushe (Moses)
  9. Quoudashe-Edta (The Church)

Significant feast days include St Thomas celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 3 July; Simeon Sawa (Oldman) celebrated on 2 February; Our Lady Guardian of Fields/Plants celebrated on 15 May; and St George celebrated on 24 April.

Presence in Australia

The main migration to Australia began in the 1970s and there are now about 13,000 Chaldeans in Sydney and around 9,000 in Melbourne. In recent years there has been increased migration of Chaldeans to Australia, due to the war in Iraq.

The first Chaldean Catholic Church in Australia was established in Sydney in August 1978. The second Chaldean parish was established in Campbellfield, Melbourne in 1982 – Our Lady Guardian of Plants Chaldean Catholic Church. In Melbourne, the majority of the Chaldean Catholic community reside in the northern suburbs of Broadmeadows, Roxburgh Park, Meadow Heights, Campbellfield, Coburg and Brunswick.

You can locate places of worship and community groups through the Directory.

Further Reading & Materials