Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa

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Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa
Patriarch of the Chaldeans
John sulaqa.gif
Church Chaldean Catholic Church
See Amid of the Chaldeans
Installed 28 April 1553
Term ended January 1555
Successor Abdisho IV Maron
Personal details
Birth name Yohannan Sulaqa
Born circa 1510
Died January 1555
Residence Amid, Turkey

Mar Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa (Classical Syriac: ܫܡܥܘܢ ܬܡܝܢܝܐ ܝܘܚܢܢ ܣܘܠܩܐ; also John Soulaqa, Sulaka or Sulacha, circa 1510–1555) was the first Patriarch of what was to become the Chaldean Catholic Church, from 1553 to 1555, after it broke from the Assyrian Church.

Yohannan Sulaqa's ascension as Patriarch was part of the 1552 schism in the Assyrian Church of the East which resulted in the establishment of rival patriarchates and ultimately a permanent rift in the Assyrian Church. He was elected by those who opposed the hereditary patriarchal succession within the Abuna family, and he took an unprecedented step in the Church of the East: he traveled to Rome, accepted the Catholic creed and was consecrated as Patriarch in 1553, after at first failing in an attempt to join the Syriac Orthodox Church.[1][2] His reign did not last long though: Upon his return, due to strong opposition by the opposing patriarch, Sulaqa was imprisoned by the Ottoman leader of Amadiyah, tortured, and executed in January 1555.[3] He is considered a martyr of the Catholic Church.[4]


Up to Yohannan Sulaqa, the Assyrian Church of the East was united in a single patriarchate and the Episcopal see was located in the ancient Assyrian city of Alqosh. In the 15th century the Patriarch Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437–1493) made the office hereditary in his own family,[5] whose name was known as Bar Mama or Abuna family.

This was made possible through the ancient Canonical law of the Church of East, which decreed that only metropolitan bishops could confirm a patriarch. As a result, Shimun IV and his successor only appointed their family members as metropolitan bishops,[6] in order for the uncle to choose his brothers or nephews to succeed him as patriarch. This designated successor, once consecrated as metropolitan bishop with right of succession, was called natar kursi.

The patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb, consecrated either towards the end of 1538 or early in 1539, was highly unpopular due to his illicit activities in profligate life, selling church properties and allowing the use of concubines. Furthermore, he consecrated his own nephews at the ages of twelve and fifteen as metropolitan bishops. These actions led to wide protest causing further upheaval and instability in the church.


Yohannan Sulaqa was born c. 1510 to Daniel Bit-Bellu, a member of an ethnic Assyrian family in the Mosul region of northern Mesopotamia. Around 1540 Sulaqa became abbot of the monastery of Rabban Hormizd in Alqosh (or, according to an alternative account, of the monastery of Beth Qoqa near Erbil). The literal translation of Sulaqa in English is Ascension.

Widespread complaints emerged against Shimun VII's consecration of his younger nephew as his designated successor. This led to three non-related Assyrian bishops of Shimun VII (the bishops of Arbil, Urmia and Salmas) to call an assembly in Mosul of clergy, monks, and members from ten regions, to elect the hesitant Yohannan Sulaqa as the new patriarch. A bishop of metropolitan rank was needed at the ceremony in order to consecrate Sulaqa as patriarch. Opposition from members of the patriarchal Abuna family, and the doctrinal differences with the Syrian Orthodox Church, led to the decision of asking Pope Julius III of Rome to celebrate the consecration.

Yohannan Sulaqa, along with seventy delegates, traveled to Jerusalem to meet the Custodian of the Holy Land. The group persuaded the Franciscan friars that they agreed with the faith professed by the Papacy and expressed the desire to have Sulaqa confirmed as patriarch by the pope.[7] The Friars gave them a letter of presentation to the pope, and Sulaqa with a noble traveled to Rome, where Andreas Masius gave him assistance as a translator in the court of pope Julius III.

Yohannan Sulaqa requested the pope consecrate him as patriarch. He justified this request by informing the papacy that after Mar Shimun VII Ishuyau's death in 1551, his nephew (also to be named the traditional Shimun) would succeed him as the head of the church, but this nephew was not qualified to be consecrated as bishop because the restrictions pronounced in the Canonical Law regarding age were violated. Moreover it was understood that the young nephew had died.[8] For this reason many historians such as Tisserant, Tfinkdji, and Fiey postulate the existence of one Shimun (VIII) who reigned in Alqosh from 1552 to 1558. More recently scholars such as Habbi and Lampart, as well as Becchetti in the 18th century,[8] suggest on the contrary that Shimun VII did not die in 1551 but reigned till 1558,[9] thus Sulaqa had lied to the pope.

On February 20, 1553, Yohannan Sulaqa made a profession of faith in front of the Pope. On April 9, 1553, he was consecrated as bishop in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by Cardinal John Álvarez y Alva de Toledo, OP (1488–1557) (or by the pope himself according other sources).[10] Sulaqa's appointment as patriarch was ratified by the papal bull entitled "Divina disponente clementia." In the course of the consistory held on April 28, 1553 Sulaqa received the pallium, i.e. the sign of his patriarchal authority, from the hands of the pope. He took the traditional Assyrian Christian name of Shimun VIII.

Yohannan Sulaqa traveled land via to Constantinople and from there to the northern Assyrian town of Amid where he arrived on November 12, 1553 and where he fixed his See. He was accompanied by the bishop Ambrose Buttigeg, OP († 1558), a powerful Maltese clergyman, who was specially appointed as "Nuncio for Mosul."

In January 1555 he was summoned, imprisoned for many months, tortured and executed, probably by drowning, by the local Pasha of Amadiyah instigated by the partisans of Shimun VII,[3] shortly after ordaining five metropolitans. For Catholics he is considered a martyr.

Sulaqa's brother, Joseph Mar (Sulaqa) of India, held the office from 1556 to 1569 of Metropolitan of the Thomas Christians in South India.


Yohannan Sulaqa was pointedly given the title of "Patriarch of Mosul and Athur" (Assyria) in Rome,[11] not in a restrictive sense, but meaning of the Church of the East., which was founded in Assyria, and at that time, Kerala aside, was exclusive to northern Mesopotamia, the former Assyria. The Chronicle of the Carmelites states that Sulaqa was proclaimed Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians but on April 19, 1553 the title was changed to Patriarch of the Chaldeans,[12] perhaps in reference to the Old Testament, which gives Abraham's birthplace as "Ur of Chaldees" at a time long before the Chaldeans entered Mesopotamia (and which many modern scholars now believe was actually in Assyria or Asia Minor), rather than to any ethnic or geographic link with the long extinct Chaldeans of the south eastern extremities of Iraq.[13][14]

The term Chaldeans had a history of being used in an ethnically and geographically inaccurate sense by Rome, having been previously officially used by the Council of Florence in 1445 as a new name for a group of Greek Nestorians of Cyprus who entered in Full Communion with the Catholic Church.[15] Rome followed to use the term Chaldeans to indicate the members of the Church of the East in Communion with Rome (mainly not to use the term Nestorian that was theologically unacceptable) also in 1681 for Joseph I and later in 1830 when Yohannan Hormizd, of the line of Alqosh, became the first "Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans" of the modern Chaldean Catholic Church.

The Shimun line[edit]

Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa was the first incumbent of the Shimun line of the Assyrian Church of the East. This patriarchal See was initially located in Amid, but very soon moved to Siirt, then to Urmia, then to Khosrowa (near Salmas) and from the second half of 17th century to Qochanis. Also the area of influence moved from the North West of the Assyrian homeland to the North Eastern mountains.

The last patriarch of this line recognized by the Pope was Shimun IX Dinkha (died 1600) and later there were only few correspondences thought missionaries. This See reintroduced in 1600 the traditional heredity system for patriarchs' succession, a practice unacceptable to Rome. In 1692, patriarch Mar Shimun XIII Dinkha[10] broke formally the communion with Rome and returned his members to the Assyrian Church. The patriarchate of the present-day Assyrian Church of the East, with its See in Chicago, forms the continuation of this line.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: A Concise History. Routledge. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-415-29770-7. Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  2. ^ Cambridge History, p. 521
  3. ^ a b Frazee, Charles A. (2006). Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453–1923. Cambridge University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-521-02700-7. 
  4. ^ Angold, Michael, ed. (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity. Volume 5, Eastern Christianity. Cambridge University Press. p. 527. ISBN 978-0-521-81113-2. 
  5. ^ "Chaldean Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic)". The new Catholic Encyclopedia 3. The Catholic University of America. 2003. p. 366. 
  6. ^ Wilmshurst, David (2000). The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318–1913. Peeters Publishers. p. 19. ISBN 978-90-429-0876-5. 
  7. ^ Frazee, Charles A. (2006). Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453–1923. Cambridge University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-521-02700-7. 
  8. ^ a b Becchetti, Filippo Angelico (1796). Istoria degli ultimo quattro secoli della Chiesa, Vol. 10. Rome. pp. 155–157. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  9. ^ a b Heleen H.L. Murre. "The Patriarchs of the Church of the East from the Fifteenth to Eighteenth Centuries". Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  10. ^ a b O’Mahony, Anthony (2006). "Syriac Christianity in the modern Middle East". In Angold, Michael. Eastern Christianity. Cambridge History of Christianity 5. Cambridge University Press. p. 527. ISBN 978-0-521-81113-2. 
  11. ^ Koodapuzha, Xavier. Faith and Communion in the Indian Church of Saint Thomas Christians. Kerala, India: Oriental Institute of Religious Studies. p. 59. 
  12. ^ Yana (Bebla), George V. (2000). "Myth vs. Reality". JAA Studies 14 (1): 80. 
  13. ^ "Genesis 11:28-31; KJV; - And Haran died before his father Terah". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  14. ^ "Nehemiah 9:7 KJV - Thou art the LORD the God, who didst". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  15. ^ Council of Florence, Bull of union with the Chaldeans and the Maronites of Cyprus Session 14, 7 August 1445 [1]


  • Angold, Michael, ed. (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity. Volume 5, Eastern Christianity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81113-2. 
  • Gulik, W. v. (1904). "Die Konsistorialakten über die Begründung des uniert-chaldäischen Patriarchates von Mosul unter Papst Julius III". Oriens Christianus 4: 261–277. 
  • Habbi, Joseph (1966). "Signification de l'union chaldéenne de Mar Sulaqa avec Rome en 1553". L'Orient Syrien 11: 99–132. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Patriarch of Babylon
Succeeded by
Abdisho IV Maron