Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
Chaldeans Pre – Christianity: Chaldeans were a major component of the Mesopotamia Mosaic population and Abraham, as a founder of Jewish faith, was originally from “the Chaldean” Ur (South of Iraq), subsequently his “descendants” maintained their Chaldean nationality. In 627 BC, King Nabopolassar established the great Kingdom of Chaldeans, of which Babylon was the Capital City, and continued to be ruled by his successors until 539 BC. The Kingdom expanded to include; the entire territory of Babylon; the southern region of Iraq; and other large areas. The Chaldeans were famed for astronomy, sciences, agriculture, and arts including architecture especially that their Hanging Gardens is one of the seven world wonders as well as other well-known archaeological sites, such as Ishtar Gate, Ziggurat, etc. Chaldeans built their civilization upon the ancient Mesopotamian heritage of Sumerian and Akkadian, as shown in international museums.
Christianity: Jewish community, particularly in Mesopotamia, was prepared to accept Christianity due to language, environment and religious prophecies of the Old Testament about Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christianity dispersed easily within the Chaldean territories at the center and the southern part of Iraq when Chaldeans and some Arabic tribes “Al-Manathira” joined. Moreover, the history shows that the first Church “Kukhi” and the Patriarchate headquarters were in Seleucia – ctesiphonte (near Baghdad today), which was named, at that time, as “the Church of the East” for its’ broad geographical distribution.
In 1445, and by the end of the Florence ecumenical Council, the diocese of the Eastern Church in Cyprus led by Bishop Timothy, joined the Catholic Church and was given a name of “Chaldean”. However, in 1553, the term “Chaldean” returned to Patriarch Sulaqa and is still used proudly by this group of people. It is worth mentioning also, that there are Muslim groups in the southern part of Iraq, particularly in “Nasiriyah”, who proudly regained their Chaldean identity and are practicing different activities through several Chaldean associations.
Motto of the Chaldean Patriarchate: As in every Patriarchate, there are 2 different mottos, one for His Beatitude the Patriarch and the other one is for the Patriarchate:
The Chaldean Patriarchate Motto is: “For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
It is taken from the Gospel of Matthew (2: 1-2). “And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him”. These Magi (pagans) from the East were astrologers (experts in stars motion) and were mentioned by the Evangelist Matthew (80 AD), referring to the existence of non-Jews who believed in Jesus Christ. Also, cited by the Evangelist Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (2: 9) stating that, among those who attended the Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit) were: “Parthians, Medes, and Elamites” (2: 9), who were all from the center and the south of Mesopotamia.
The spiritual meaning of the motto: “For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
The Magi (astrologists) saw and followed an unusual “star” for a long distance from the “Levant” in the east, probably, from Babylon to Jerusalem. “And behold, the star which they had seen in the East preceded them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matt 2: 9). The Magi knew Jesus by the star, worshiped Him, offered gifts, and returned joyfully to their country. Similarly, “The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them” (Luke 2:20).
Hence, the Motto of the Patriarchate represents a “mission” that calls the daughters and sons of the Chaldean Catholic (universal) Church, to bear the responsibility of being like “this star” leading people to Jesus Christ, same as their ancestors “in faith” did and delivered “the Good News” to Persia, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines, China and Gulf countries.
I sincerely hope, that this motto will be placed in every church and explained to the community.
We, the children of the “Eastern Church”, are called today more than ever to work hard for “restoring” our ecclesiastical and national unity with the Assyrian Church. Otherwise, we will lose the strength of our evangelical mission; national presence; and rights.