Christians and Yazidi

August 9 2014

As night falls in Iraq, let’s summarise Christianity there and eastern Christianity generally.

The autocephalous Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox) churches (Greece, Russia, etc) accept the formulation on the nature of Christ promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon (451). They mainly use two liturgies in the Byzantine rite: those of St John Chrysostom and of St Basil the Great (Basil of Caesarea). The main liturgical languages are Greek and Church Slavonic.

The Oriental Orthodox (Miaphysite) churches reject the Chalcedonian formulation. They are in full communion with each other, but not with the Orthodox churches. They include the dominant Christian churches in Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Oriental Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in Armenia and in the ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

There are 23 Eastern Catholic churches: autonomous, self-governing particular churches in communion with Rome which use non-Latin rites. Are they all technically “uniate”? Is that word universally applied? Together with the Latin Church, they make up the entire Catholic Church.

The ones in the near and middle east, ie the ones not mainly established in Europe, the Horn of Africa or India, are, in no particular order, the Armenian Catholic Church (Armenian rite in Armenian; based in Lebanon), Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (Byzantine rite in Koine and modern Greek; based in Greece), Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine rite in Arabic and sometimes Greek; based in Syria), Syriac Maronite Church (West Syrian rite in Syriac, a modern version of Aramaic; based in Lebanon), Chaldean Catholic Church (East Syrian rite in Syriac; based in Iraq), Syriac Catholic Church (West Syrian rite in Syriac; based in Lebanon) and Coptic Catholic Church (Alexandrian rite in Coptic and Arabic; based in Egypt). All have diasporas. There are other rites.

The Nestorian (aka East Syrian) church survives in the Church of the East.

Iraqi Christians are divided into:

Oriental Orthodox, or the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (West Syrian rite)

Catholics, the Chaldean Catholic Church (East Syrian rite) and Syriac Catholic Church (West Syrian rite)

Nestorians, or the Assyrian Church of the East (from which the Ancient Church of the East is a split dating from 1968) (East Syrian rite).

I mentioned the Yazidi of Iraq here and here. Their religion blends elements of Mithraism, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian religious traditions, Christianity and Islam. Toynbee commits a common howler (in Turkey, A Past and a Future) by saying that they worship Satan, a myth that is perpetuated by their persecutors in the Islamic State.

I will do a separate post on Indian churches (next).

Old posts:

S Rozhdestvom! (lists the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches)

Ottoman people and Orthodox churches (lists the Oriental Orthodox churches)

The East-West Schism.

12 Responses to “Christians and Yazidi”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The word autocephalous can be applied to the Oriental Orthodox as well as Orthodox churches.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    We should stop flattering the IS by calling it the “biggest threat” to the West. A little contempt would be more seemly.


  3. […] dominant churches in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia are Oriental Orthodox. Most African Islam is Sunni, but there are Shiite communities in Egypt, Senegal and Nigeria and […]

  4. davidderrick Says:

    Christopher Hitchens thinks Oriental Orthodox means Greek Orthodox:

    Christopher Hitchens vs Frank Turek, moderator James Taylor, 2008.


  5. […] Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1997), about eastern Christianity. Posts here: Indian churches, Christians and Yazidi, and work back from links in […]


  6. […] my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and […]

  7. davidderrick Says:

    Today the heads of five churches use the title of Patriarch of Antioch: the Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, Melkite Greek Catholic Church and Maronite Church; and, historically, there has also been a Latin Patriarch of Antioch.

  8. davidderrick Says:

    The independent Catholic churches in the Horn of Africa are the Eritrean Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Catholic Church, both Alexandrian rite performed in Geʿez, a dead Semitic language.

    But the churches aren’t dead.


  9. […] my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and (for […]


  10. […] post on the Melkite Church. My guide to eastern Christianities is here and […]


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