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Sulaka’s death marked the beginning of two centuries of turmoil between anti-Catholic and pro-Catholic parties in the Church of the East, as families and factions jockeyed back and forth to achieve prominence. The papacy grew weary and perhaps confused as families switched loyalties, causing additional confusion when the terms Assyrian and Chaldean became interchangeable.

The papacy did not recognize a Catholic patriarch until 1830, when Rome confirmed Mosul Archbishop Yuhannan Hormizdas as Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. With Hormizdas’s profession of faith, the Chaldean Church stabilized. For the next 85 years it strengthened its position at the expense of the Assyrian Church of the East, led by, ironically, a descendant of the first Catholic patriarch, who rejected communion with the Church of Rome.

While Assyrians and Chaldeans continued to share the same traditions and rites of the Church of the East inherited from Edessa and Nisibis, all references to Nestorius and his alleged Christology were expunged from the liturgical books of the Chaldeans.

Near annihilation. During World War I, the Christians of Mesopotamia – Assyrians and Chaldeans, as well as Syriac Catholics and Orthodox – again found themselves caught between two opposing cultures at war, the Ottoman Turks, Sunni Muslims who had dominated the Arab world since the 15th century, and the Christian powers of Great Britain, France and Russia. Encouraged with promises of independence, these Christians supported the Allies in their great war with the Ottomans.

The consequences were grave. By 1918 the Turks had massacred more than 250,000 Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriac Christians; it has been reported that perhaps one-third of the Assyrian community perished. Those not killed were deported or fled. Assyrians escaped to what is today southern Iraq. Chaldeans gathered around the ancient monasteries near Mosul. Syriac Catholics and Orthodox dispersed, seeking refuge in Beirut, Damascus and Mosul.

Modern developments. Modern Iraq (from the Arabic, al-iraq, meaning the shore or grazing area) is a creation of the Allied powers, who carved up the spoils of the Ottoman empire after its defeat in World War I. Placed under a British mandate by the League of Nations, Iraq was formed by uniting three former Ottoman provinces, bringing together in an uneasy union Arab and Kurdish Sunni Muslims, Arab Shiite Muslims and various Christian communities.

Despite decades of war, oppressive governments and economic instability, the Chaldean Church at first prospered. The seat of the patriarch moved from Mosul to Baghdad in 1950 as large numbers of Chaldeans settled in the capital. Well educated and industrious, the Chaldeans eventually constituted a significant portion of Iraq’s middle and professional classes. Large parish complexes comprised of churches, classrooms for catechesis, social halls and residences for the clergy and religious were built. Social service institutions, such as Baghdad’s St. Raphael and Al Hayat hospitals, served the poor, Christian and Muslim. St. Peter’s Patriarchal Seminary moved from Mosul to a prosperous Baghdad suburb in 1960.

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