Shimun XXI Eshai

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Eshai Shimun XXIII
His Holiness
Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII
ChurchAssyrian Church of the East
DiocesePatriarchal Diocese of the Eastern United States
SeeApostolic See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (in exile in San Jose and Chicago)
Term ended5 November 1975
PredecessorMar Shimun XX Paulos (1918–1920)
SuccessorMar Dinkha IV (1975–2015)
Personal details
Born26 February 1908
Konak, Hakkari, Ottoman Empire (now Hakkari Province, Turkey)
Died6 November 1975(1975-11-06) (aged 67)
San Jose, California, United States
DenominationChristian, Assyrian Church of the East
ResidenceChicago, Illinois, United States

Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII (26 February 1908 – 6 November 1975), sometimes known as Mar Shimun XXIII Ishaya, Mar Shimun Ishai, or Simon Jesse,[1] was Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East from 1920, when he was a youth, until his murder on 6 November 1975. (The difference in regnal numbers depends on which members of the Shimun family one counts as Patriarchs; Mar Eshai chose to use the regnal number XXIII.)


Born into the patriarchal family in Qudshanis, in the village of Van, in Ottoman Turkey on February 26, 1908, at the age of 11 Mar Eshai was chosen as patriarch after the death of his uncle during the Assyrian Genocide. He was educated in England, studying theology at Canterbury and at Westcott House, University of Cambridge.[1] He was the translator or author of several books on the theology and history of the Church of the East. The volatile political environment and uncertainties for the church caused in 1933 by the independence of Iraq from colonial rule forced the patriarch to be exiled to Cyprus away from the new see in Bebadi. In 1940, he relocated again, to Chicago, Illinois in the United States. Mar Eshai became an American citizen about 1949 and settled in the San Francisco area in 1954.

In 1964, a dispute over hereditary succession and church calendars caused the metropolitan of the Church of the East in India (known there as the Chaldean Syrian Church) to break away and Mar Thoma was stopped from his duties in the Church of the East. In 1995 Mar Eshai's successor, Mar Dinkha IV, was able to mostly heal the rift. 17% (the Ancient Church of the East) remain separated from the main body of the Church of the East.

Mar Eshai sought to resign as patriarch for health reasons in the late 1960s, but he was persuaded to remain in office. Some activists within the church wanted the patriarch to take a more active role in pushing for a homeland for the Assyrian people, as he had before 1933.

On a separate track, rumors began circulating with those who consistently went against him decided it was time to have someone new.[clarification needed] On 6 November 1975, the patriarch was shot and killed at the door of his home in San Jose, California, by David Malek Ismail.[2] According to trial records, Ismail said he was upset over the patriarch's marriage; however, the records suggest links between Ismail and church dissidents. According to Deputy District Attorney Brian Madden, the murder of the patriarch Mar Shimun was the outcome of a plot among church dissidents.[citation needed]

When the church council met in London on 17 October 1976, it elected as patriarch Mar Dinkha IV (who had been bishop of Tehran).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Foster, p. 34
  2. ^ "Public Proceedings on the Murder of Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII". 2004-10-11. Archived from the original on October 11, 2004. Retrieved 2011-12-17.


External links[edit]

Assyrian Church of the East titles
Preceded by
Mar Shimun XX Paulos
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Church of the East
Succeeded by
Mar Dinkha IV Khanania