Chaldean Patriarchate drops ‘Babylon’ from official title

Patriarch Louis Rapha el I Sako at an Aid to the Church in Need press conference in Rome Italy on Sept 28 2017 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church has agreed to drop the word “Babylon” from the official title of its Iraq-based patriarchate.

A statement issued after a synod meeting in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Aug. 9-14 said that the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon would now be known simply as the “Chaldean Patriarchate.”

“After discussion and deliberation, the Fathers unanimously agreed to adopt the name ‘Chaldean Patriarchate’ instead of the Patriarchate of Babylon over the Chaldeans, and they enthusiastically expressed their pride in their Chaldean identity,” the communique said.

The synod voted to change the patriarchate’s name because the term “Babylon” lacked a sound historical basis, reported Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Babylon was the capital of the ancient Babylonian Empire. The remains of the city, believed to have been the largest in the world at its height, are located south of Baghdad, on the banks of the Euphrates river.

Babylon is mentioned in the Bible, notably in the Book of Revelation.

Agenzia Fides quoted the patriarchate as saying that Babylon “was the capital of the Babylonian Empire, and it was never an episcopal or patriarchal seat and is now an Iraqi Muslim city.”

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has more than 600,000 members living mainly in Iraq but also in diaspora communities around the world.

The Church is overseen by a patriarchate based at the Cathedral of Mary Mother of Sorrows in Baghdad. The current patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, has led the Chaldean Catholic Church since 2013.

In a 2019 letter to Pope Francis, Sako said that the Chaldean Church “has always been a church of martyrs throughout its history.”

The pope highlighted the sacrifices of Chaldean Catholics during his historic visit to Iraq in March.

Speaking at the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad on March 6, he referred to the love that Christ showed on the Cross.

He said: “That same love made the martyrs victorious in their trials -- and how many martyrs have there been in the last century, more even than in the past!”

The Chaldean Catholic Church traces its roots to the Apostolic Era but took on its present historical form in the 16th century when members of the ancient Church of the East affirmed their communion with Rome.

The Holy See recognized Joseph I as the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1681. But “Babylon” was only included in the patriarch’s title from 1724. It was first used by Patriarch Joseph III, who lived in Diyarbakir in modern-day Turkey, said Agenzia Fides.

The patriarchate moved to its present location in Baghdad in the 20th century.

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