Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Church in Iraq

Or rather, The Chaldean Church. (Hat tip to Cacciaguida.)

The Chaldean Church, like some other autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches, is under the jurisdiction of its own patriarch and hierarchs in peace and communion with Rome and retains its own distinctive theological, liturgical and canonical traditions. Unlike the Byzantine, Roman and Coptic Churches, the Chaldean Church has no distinctive liturgical arts traditions in decorating its churches, but borrows heavily from the Byzantine and Roman traditions. The Assyrian Christians, however, eschew all representational art in their churches, possibly under the negative influence of Islam. The Chaldean and Assyrian Churches have similar liturgies of the same East Syriac origin, however, the Chaldean has been altered to conform to the theology of Ephesus and later Councils. Its version of the Nicene Creed, like that of the Armenian Church, is in the formulation which emerged from the Council of Nicea unamended by the later Council of Constantinople. The liturgical language of both Churches is Aramaic.

The Christian minorities in Iraq today are among the oldest in Christendom. They make up about 6% of the population numbering fewer than one million out of a population of 17 million. They consist of two main groups:

1. The Catholics (650,000)
A. Chaldean Rite: more than 600,000 with one patriarch (Babylon in Baghdad); four archdioceses (Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra & Arbil; and five dioceses (Alqosh, Amadijah, Aqra, Sulaimaniya & Zakhu)B. Syrian Rite: more than 47,000 with two archdioceses (Baghdad and Mosul)C. Latin (Roman) Rite: more than 4000 with one archdiocese (Baghdad).D. Armenian Rite: more than 3000 with one archdiocese (Baghdad).

2. The Other Christians (200,000)
A. The Church of the East, formerly Nestorian. More than 150,000.B. Syrian Orthodox: More than 40,000.C. Armenians. More than 5000.

The above figures are derived from CHALDEANS PAST AND PRESENT by Fr. Michael Bazzi (1993)
[The Assyrian Church of the East, of course, is the one most famously with the anaphora (Eucharistic prayer) of Addai and Mari, which does not contain an institution narrative. After a long study, the Holy See approved intercommunion between the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. You can listen to the anaphora being chanted in Syriac here. Sounds Arabic right? Simply haunting. Another reason I just love Eastern Christianity ... :)]

An article on the Assyrian Church from CNEWA (The Catholic Near East Welfare Association), whose magazine is an incredibly informative source on the goings on in the Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Christian worlds.

Pope Benedict recently met with the lone Christian member of Iraq's cabinet to urge the fair treatment of religious minorities in Iraq, and to press for religious freedom.


assiniboine said...

They also -- like the Oriental Orthodox Church of India -- claim St Thomas the Apostle as their founder; not too improbable that he would have got to Mesopotamia AND the Malabar Coast and spent enough time in both places to have planted churches in both places, I guess, if St James got as far as Spain and St Paul peregrinated thither and thither throughout the Mediterranean as Holy Writ indicates he did (and only tradition indicates that St Thomas made his own travels). But why not. Christianity did make it to Kerala in ancient times and it might just as well have St Thomas who brought it. Their liturgy, incidentally, is utterly thrilling to listen to, if perhaps a little dizzying to look at (sounds not unlike the magnificent hymnody of Sindhi Sufism, which also makes a lot of sense given their common geographical antecedents), and perplexingly lacking in any indigenous iconography; but Malayalis are, after all, noted for their terpsichorean talent and their lack of interest in the plastic arts so it makes sense culturally.

Gashwin said...

Makes me want to take up our mutual friend's offer and go to a Syrian liturgy in India this winter. Alack, I fear I'll lack the time in Bombay.

So, am I correct in surmising that the Malayalis' terpischorean proclivities have been incorporated into the Malabar/Malankara liturgy? That would be fascinating.

assiniboine said...

Well, not exactly; I was being mildly facetious. But there are clergy and acolytes running about the sanctuary throughout the rites and ceremonies, attending to various liturgical errands, and if you take your glasses off it does look a bit like the Royal Ballet. Except that ballet always puts me to sleep within 5 minutes (I kid thee not, and after a half dozen attempts over the years to force myself to appreciate something that others clearly get a lot of pleasure out of, I decided it's just too expensive a way to catch some shuteye) -- some sort of hypnotic effect, obviously -- and this doesn't.