St. Jude had an intimate connection to Iraq

Christian's picture

With the world focused on events taking place in Iraq over the past four years, it is interesting to note that St. Jude had an intimate connection to this part of the world during his life.

While many people immediately think of Islam as the dominant religion in the Middle East, Christianity also has deep historical roots in the area, particularly in Iraq.

St. Thomas (the "doubting apostle") brought Christianity to Mesopotamia (the ancient name of Iraq) around 35 A.D. He was aided in his efforts by St. Jude, who arrived shortly thereafter. They based themselves in the city of Arbel (in present-day northern Iraq), where they began preaching to the local people.

These were people who considered themselves Chaldeans or Assyrians. They were descended from the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations, indigenous people of Mesopotamia whose famous empires flourished hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

They proved to be among the most receptive early converts to Christianity, probably because they spoke the same language as Jesus and his associates (Aramaic), and because of the large Jewish community among them.

The church of St. Thomas and St. Jude began to grow, and came to be known as the Assyrian Church of the East. There is even a reference to this Church in Saint Peter's letter: "...the Church that is in Babylon..." (1 Peter 5: 13).

The new church flourished and grew in popularity. St. Jude preached in Mesopotamia, Libya, Persia, and Edessa (Turkey), while St. Thomas preached the Gospel in the Parthian and Persian Empires. Later he reached India and established the Church there as well.

When St. Thomas left Mesopotamia around 52 A.D., he left St. Jude behind to lead their community. Jude served as the religious leader (patriarch) of the Church of The East from 37-65 A.D. Around 60 A.D. St. Jude wrote his famous Gospel letter addressed to his followers in which he urged them to stay strong in their faith despite the persecutions they faced.

Jude was killed around 65 A.D., and his trusted disciples continued his missionary work into the 2nd century. Through their efforts, the Catholic Church flourished in ancient Iraq, Iran and Syria from the 1st to the 4th centuries. Indeed, the Church of the East was one of the most dynamic Christian churches in the world for several centuries. There are still monasteries standing in Northern Iraq today that date back to the 4th century.

The followers of St. Thomas, St. Jude, and their spiritual descendants developed the Assyrian Church of the East into a famous missionary body, eventually bringing the Christian Faith and Church into China, Burma, Tibet, Korea, and Japan. They also were directly responsible for helping spread Christianity to India.

The growing influence of Islam in the region made life difficult for Christian believers there. The rise of the Turkish Empire brought many persecutions of Christians in the Middle East. During World War I, more than 50,000 Christians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks in Iraq. They were further decimated by ethnic, religious, and political strife in Iraq in the 20th century.

Unfortunately, now only less than 2% of the population of Iraq is Christian. Unable to survive in their native lands, most of the descendants of St. Jude's early followers have immigrated to places more tolerant of their religious beliefs.

Today the Chaldean/Assyrian Catholic Church has over four million worldwide members, representing about 75% of the total Assyrian Christian population. They exist in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Europe, Australia, Indonesia and other areas. In the U.S., there are 10 Chaldean parishes throughout the country, including four in the Detroit area and four around Los Angeles. The Chaldeans are strongly attached to their church, not only for their spiritual guidance, but also as the nucleus of their community.

The Chaldeans are considered one of the five main branches of Eastern (Orthodox) Christianity. To this day, The Eastern Christian Churches honor St. Jude Thaddeus as one of their early founders and leaders. In fact, Jude and his associates are credited with composing many of the ancient church prayers and rites still in use by Eastern Churches today.

In a part of the world that has unfortunately known so much upheaval through the ages, it is inspiring to reflect that there was a time in which St. Jude helped bring the people of the region together in the love, faith, and spirit of God.

Christian's blog | login to post comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
DragNet's picture
Submitted by DragNet on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 8:43pm.

During my world travels I've come across burial sites (churches) of many apostles: St. Thomas is said to be buried in a hill in Chennai (formerly Madras in India); James is said to be laying down in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain (my wife's town), where pilgrimage is alive and kicking nowadays (Camino de Santiago). Peter rests in Rome.
Here is my question for you, Christian: Is this for real? Are these the real apostles buried in these places or just another trick by the Catholic church to "boost" the faithful?
I was raised an orthodox in Transilvania, the Romanian orthodox church do not adhere to these beliefs and did not follow Constatine's efforts to unite the Christian churches under the dominion of Rome.
Are there historical hard facts to support these beliefs?

Making you think twice......

Christian's picture
Submitted by Christian on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 10:20pm.

"Christ said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . . ’ Could He not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, He gave the kingdom, whom He called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?" (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

"It is to Peter that He says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal" (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 9:00pm.

A priest will whopup on you. Mysteries and intrigue are highly necessary, as are long tales of answers to old questions.
Have "faith" in them what brung you.

DragNet's picture
Submitted by DragNet on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 9:19pm.

Where is Father Epps when we need him?

Making you think twice......

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 6:37pm.

Don't let me down.
Take a sad song and make it better.
The minute you let her into your heart
Then you can start
To make it better.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 6:54pm.

How are you? Hope your health is better.

(I love that song, and most all old music)

Tug Smiling

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 6:53pm.

It's good to see you. Hope your staying well.

Wanna explain that picture away? I've deciphered it several times and each time I come up with a different explanation. Some quite bizarre? Shocked


"That man was Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard".


muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Sat, 07/14/2007 - 11:24am.

This picture is the result of a little too much time on my hands one day a few weeks ago. So, here I am on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.

It was either this or me as Picasso's "Old Guitarist" or me in Michelangelo's "The Creation."

Now, the problem with the latter was that there are two choices of heads to replace with my own: God or Adam. My wife was convinced that lightning would come out of the sky if I replaced God's head with my smiling face. But the result of replacing Adam's with mine was rather odd: he's quite naked (and perhaps in need of one of those spammer "male enhancement" products).

So.... I am the walrus.


Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Fri, 07/13/2007 - 6:26pm.

I don't get it?
They failed their mission but were Saints?
They all got killed, nearly?
I guess that is the way of it, huh?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.