The history of the post-1913 dioceses of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Church is characterised by the decline of the traditional dioceses in Mesopotamia and the creation of new dioceses for the Assyrian and Chaldean diasporas.
Post-1913 dioceses of the Assyrian Church of the East
After the death of the mutran Isaac Hnanishoʿ in 1919 and the patriarch Shemʿon XX Paul in 1920, the hierarchy of the Assyrian Church of the East consisted of five bishops: the mutran Joseph Hnanishoʿ; Abimalek Timothy, metropolitan of India; Zayʿa Sargis, metropolitan of Jilu, Raikan and Baz; Yalda Yahballaha, bishop of Berwari; and Eliya Abuna, formerly bishop of Alqosh and then Taimar. This hierarchy persisted until the end of the Second World War.
Mar Abimalek Timothy died in 1945, and was succeeded as metropolitan of India by Thomas Darmo. Mar Yalda Yahballaha died in 1950, and was succeeded as bishop of Berwari in 1957 by his nephew Andrew Yahballaha, who died in 1973 and was not replaced. Mar Zayʿa Sargis died in 1951, and was succeeded as bishop of Jilu by Mar Ishoʿ Sargis, who died in 1966. Mar Eliya Abuna joined the Chaldean church in 1921, and died in 1956. Mar Joseph Hnanishoʿ died in 1977, and the office of mutran lapsed on his death. Two other bishops were consecrated during the 1950s and early 1960s, Mar Philip Yohannan in 1953 for Rawanduz and Mar Hnanya Dinkha, the present patriarch, in 1962 for Teheran.
The present Assyrian ecclesiastical hierarchy reflects the changing distribution of Nestorian Christians as a result of emigration after the First World War. The Assyrian community, which numbered in total about 500,000 in 1980, still has many members living in Iraq and Iran, but their greatest concentration is in the United States, especially in Chicago, where Dinkha IV now resides. This latter group is mainly composed of immigrants who left Iraq after 1933, and their descendants. There are also significant Assyrian groups in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. Small Assyrian communities also exist in parts of the former Soviet Union, descendants of the Assyrians who migrated to Georgia in the second half of the eighteenth century, and of those Urmi Nestorians who migrated to Yerevan in the 1820s. There is also a substantial Assyrian diaspora in the Middle East outside Iraq and Iran, principally in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Since the schism of 1969 the Assyrian Church of the East has been divided into two groups. In 1990 Mar Dinhka's hierarchy consisted of the following bishops:
Besides the bishops mentioned in this list, Fiey also mentions Mar Yohannan Abraham, bishop of Khabur, Gazarta and Syria since 1968, who resides in Hassakeh and looks after the Syrian communities of the Khabur valley. Dinkha IV has also recently consecrated a bishop of Europe, Mar Odisho Abraham. Two other bishops, Nicholas Baso and Claudio Vettorazo, residing in Sicily and in Aquileia in northern Italy respectively, have also been connected with Mar Dinkha's group in the past, though their present status is uncertain. A bishop named Yaʿqob Barclay has also been recognised recently by Dinkha IV as bishop of Jerusalem.
In 1990 Mar Addaï's hierarchy consisted of the following bishops:
Mar Aprem Mooken, metropolitan of Trichur, India (consecrated on 22 September 1968);
Mar Narsaï Thomas, metropolitan of Kirkuk (consecrated in December 1969);
Mar Thomas Giwargis Soro, metropolitan of Mosul (consecrated in December 1969, appointed in 1972);
Mar Paul, bishop of Trichur (consecrated on 13 September 1968); and
Mar Daniel Yaʿqob, bishop of the United States (consecrated in 1973).
Fiey also mentions a bishop of Toronto (Mar Emmanuel Rihana, appointed in 1990), who may also be one of Mar Addai's group. Mar Daniel Yaʿqob was transferred to Syria in 1991.
Post-1913 dioceses of the Chaldean Church
In 1913, on the eve of the First World War, the Chaldean Church was organised into a patriarchal archdiocese of Mosul and Baghdad, four archdioceses (Amid, Kirkuk, Seert and Urmi) and eight dioceses (ʿAqra, ʿAmadiya, Gazarta, Mardin, Salmas, Sehna, Van and Zakho). There were also a number of patriarchal vicariates for isolated communities in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Persia and southern Iraq.
Many of the Chaldean dioceses suffered terrible hardship and persecution during the First World War. In 1928, according to an official statistic prepared by the Sacred Congregation pro Ecclesia Orientali, the Chaldean church (excluding the vicariates) had fewer than 44,000 members, compared with over 101,000 in 1913. The dioceses of Kirkuk and Sehna, well to the southeast of the war zone, escaped relatively unscathed, but all the other Chaldean dioceses had lost more than half their Christian population as a result of the war. In the patriarchal archdiocese of Mosul, the largest of the Chaldean dioceses, there were only 18,350 Chaldeans in 1928, compared with just under 32,000 in 1913. In the dioceses of Zakho and (ʿAmadiya there were also heavy losses, though their extent was concealed in the 1928 statistics because these two dioceses were at that time supporting a substantial Chaldean refugee population. In the dioceses of Van, Amid, Seert, Gazarta, Mardin and Salmas, the losses were simply catastrophic. These six dioceses could muster only 4,500 Chaldeans in 1928, compared with 33,840 in 1913.
These heavy losses were reflected in a number of changes in the traditional episcopal hierarchy of the Chaldean church. In 1915 Yaʿqob Awgin Manna, patriarchal vicar of Van, left the district, and after the subsequent massacre of the Christians in the Van region the vicariate was not revived at the end of the war. Addaï Scher, archbishop of Seert, and Philip Yaʿqob Abraham, archbishop of Gazarta, were both killed in 1915, and neither diocese was revived after the war. In 1929 the Chaldean archdiocese of Amid lapsed on the death of its last archbishop, Shlemun Mushe al-Sabbagh. In 1930 the old diocese of Salmas was joined with the archdiocese of Urmi, established in 1890.
At the same time, new arrangements were required for the growing Chaldean diaspora in Syria and Lebanon. Patriarchal vicariates had been established before the First World War for the Chaldean communities in Aleppo, Damascus and Deir al-Zor. There was also a Chaldean community in Alexandretta, and after the First World War a single patriarchal vicariate of Syria was created for these four communities. In 1937 this vicariate numbered 3,326 Chaldeans, 6 priests and 4 churches. Substantial numbers of Assyrians and Chaldeans left Iraq in the 1930s and were resettled in the Khabur valley in northern Syria, and a new Chaldean diocese of Syria and Lebanon was created for these communities and for the Chaldeans of Beirut. The first bishop of Syria and Lebanon was Gabriel Naʿmo, who sat from 1939 to 1957 at Aleppo. In 1937 the diocese contained 3,107 Chaldeans, with 11 priests and 2 churches.
According to figures published in 1938 by Stephen Kajo, the patriarchal vicar of Mosul, the population of the Chaldean church was just over 140,000 in 1937. This is a surprisingly high figure compared with the 1928 statistics, but it may be possible to reconcile the two figures. The 1928 estimate, made under difficult circumstances with a considerable number of Chaldean Christians displaced in refugee camps, may well have underestimated the true strength of the Chaldean church in Mesopotamia, and did not take account of the large Chaldean emigration after the First World War. The 1937 statistic, on the other hand, included a significant number of East Syrian Christians who were only nominally Chaldean or who had very recently converted. The statistic counted as Chaldean not only the traditional pre-1914 Chaldean villages, but also a number of villages in the Zakho, ʿAqra, ʿAmadiya and Berwari districts, previously Nestorian in sympathy. These villages were resettled after 1918 by Assyrian refugees (most of whom would have been Nestorians), and appear to have received Chaldean priests shortly afterwards.
At the start of the Second World War the Chaldean patriarch resided in Baghdad, and his episcopate consisted of four archdioceses (Kirkuk, Sehna, Basra, and Urmi-Salmas) and six dioceses (ʿAmadiya, ʿAqra, Mardin, Mosul, Syria and Lebanon, and Zakho). There were also patriarchal vicariates for Syria, Turkey and Egypt.
There have been a number of other changes to the hierarchy of the Chaldean church in the last half century. The diocese of Mardin ceased to exist in 1941 after the death of its last bishop, Israel Audo. In 1957 the diocese of Syria and Lebanon was broken up. A new diocese of Aleppo was created for Syria, while the Chaldeans of Beirut were given a coadjutor, with the titular rank of bishop and the right of succession. (The patriarch Raphael I Bidawid was coadjutor of Beirut from 1966 to 1989.) In 1960 a new diocese was created for Alqosh. In 1962 Baghdad was placed under a patriarchal auxiliary, with the titular rank of bishop. In January 1966 an archdiocese was established for Ahwaz in southern Iran, where a significant number of Chaldeans were employed in the oil industry. In 1968 Erbil was detached from the diocese of Kirkuk and its ancient status as an archdiocese was revived. In 1971 the archdiocese of Sehna was renamed Teheran. This change of name reflected a decision taken three decades earlier by the archbishop Joseph Cheikho of Sehna, who moved his seat to Teheran in 1944 in recognition of the steady growth of the Chaldean population of the Iranian capital.
Until recently the Chaldean church did not appoint bishops for its diaspora, preferring to administer them through patriarchal vicars. This policy gradually changed after the Second World War. The patriarchal vicariate of Turkey, established in 1865, was replaced in 1966 by a diocese at Istanbul. Istanbul is now the only city in Turkey with a Chaldean bishop. In 1980 the patriarchal vicariate of Egypt was also replaced by a diocese at Cairo. In 1982 an apostolic exarchate was established for the United States and a bishop was appointed for the exarchate with his seat at Detroit. In 1987 the small Chaldean community in Australia was under the care of a patriarchal vicar.
Ibrahim Ibrahim, bishop of the Eastern United States (since 1982);
Joseph Abraham Sarraf, bishop of Cairo (since 1984);
ʿAbdalahad Rabban, bishop of ʿAqra and patriarchal administrator of Suleimaniya (since 1980); and
Emmanuel Delly, titular archbishop of Kashkar and patriarchal auxiliary of Baghdad (since 1962).
A recently-published statistic gave the Chaldean church a total membership of 285,639 in 1995, of whom nearly 150,000 lived in Baghdad and its environs, 21,000 in the Mosul district, and 60,000 in America. According to this statistic the church had 149,220 members in Baghdad, 5,325 in the Kirkuk district, 10,500 in the Erbil district, 4,500 in ʿAshshar and Basra, 20,944 in the Mosul district, 4,500 in Teheran, 1,500 in the Urmi and Salmas districts, 350 in Ahwaz, 10,000 in Lebanon, 500 in Egypt, 15,000 in Syria, 3,300 in Turkey and 60,000 in America.
The Chaldean hierarchy, 2009
There have been several changes in the Chaldean hierarchy during the past two decades.
There have been several incumbents of the archdiocese of Erbil since its revival. The archbishop Hanna Marko of Erbil died on 23 October 1996 at the age of 59, and was succeeded by Yaʿqob Ishaq (July 1997–May 1999). After a short vacancy he was succeeded by Yaʿqob Denha Scher on 12 January 2001. Yaʿqob Denha Scher died in office 8 January 2005, at the age of 70. Since then the archdiocese of Erbil has been administered by the bishop Rabban Al-Qas of ʿAmadiya, in the capacity of apostolic administrator.
Yohannan Issayi, archbishop of Teheran, died on 7 February 1999, and was succeeded on the same day by Ramzi Garmo, coadjutor archbishop of Teheran since 5 May 1995.
ʿAbdalahad Rabban, bishop of ʿAqra and apostolic administrator of Suleimaniya, died on 25 July 1999. The diocese of ʿAqra has remained vacant since his death, and the few remaining Chaldeans in the ʿAqra district are now under the care of an apostolic administrator, Father Youhanna Issa.
Three important appointments were made in December 2001. The elderly bishops Ablahad Sana of Alqosh (ob. 7 September 2002) and Yohannan Qello of ʿAmadiya (ob. 28 February 2007) were replaced by Mikha Pola Maqdassi and Rabban Al-Qas respectively. At the same time Petros Hanna Issa al-Harboli was consecrated bishop of Zakho, after a fourteen-year vacancy in the diocese following the death of its previous bishop Stephen Kajo in December 1987.
In October 2006 Jibrail Kassab, formerly archbishop of Basra, was consecrated archbishop of Sydney, a new archdiocese created for the growing Chaldean diaspora in Australia and New Zealand. The archeparchy of Basra has remained vacant since this appointment.
Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 and murdered either during the kidnapping or very shortly afterwards. He was the most eminent Chaldean victim of the continuing cycle of violence and disorder in Iraq since the American-led invasion of 2003. He was succeeded by Emil Shimoun Nona, whose election was confirmed by the Vatican on 13 November 2009.
The present Chaldean episcopate (November 2009) is as follows: