Shemʿon, Eshai (1909–75) [Ch. of E.]

Patr. Eshai was consecrated as a boy of eleven after the death of his uncle Mar Shemʿon Pawlos. The consecration took place on 20 June 1920 at the Baʿqūba refugee camp near Baghdad. (In recent Church sources his birthday is usually given as 26 Feb. 1908, making him twelve at the time of his consecration.) After some schooling in England (1924–7) Mar Shemʿon returned to Mosul and assumed the role of the patr. as civil head of his people. He demanded that the League of Nations make special arrangements for the Assyrians after the end of the British Mandate in Iraq in 1932, but this demand failed, and after confrontation with the new government he was deported with his family to Cyprus in 1933. In 1940 he went to the USA, settling first in Chicago and later (1954) in San Francisco. In 1948 he at last let go of the idea of the ‘temporal power’ of the patr. and began a policy of rebuilding the church in all the countries where its members were now dispersed. In 1964 he and Metropolitan Mar Yosip Ḥenanishoʿ issued a ‘synodical letter’ dictating, among other reforms, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. This was resented especially by some in Iraq, and in 1968 a schism ensued under Mar Toma Darmo. In 1973 Mar Shemʿon married, an action which, though not strictly uncanonical, threw the church into confusion. Before his status could be settled, he was murdered in Nov. 1975 by a disaffected nationalist. Eshai (Mar Shemʿon XXIII; but XXI in sources before 1940) was the last of the hereditary patriarchs of the Ch. of E.

    Select Writings and Speeches of Mar Shemʿon

    • Assyrian Church Trumpet (Trichur) 1: 3–4 (1952). (broadcast on the occasion of the consecration of Mar Thoma Darmo)
    • ‘Assyrians in the Middle East’, Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 40 (1953), 151–60.
    • Synodical letter of 1964 in POC 14 (1964), 234–8.
    • Introduction to The book of Marganitha ... by Mar Odisho Metropolitan (Trichur, India 1965).
    • Sermon on the occasion of the consecration of Mar Narsai de Baz as bishop of Lebanon in POC 18 (1968), 341–52.

    Secondary Sources

    • Light from the East (magazine of the Patriarchal Church Council, Chicago), 1–7 (1949–54).
    • J. F.  Coakley, ‘The Church of the East since 1914’, BJRL 78 (1996), 181–2, 185–95.
    • Website of the Mar Shimun Memorial Foundation: http://marshimun.com/mar-eshai-2.


How to Cite This Entry

James F. Coakley, “Shemʿon, Eshai,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Shemon-Eshai.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

James F. Coakley, “Shemʿon, Eshai,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Shemon-Eshai.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Coakley, James F. “Shemʿon, Eshai.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Shemon-Eshai.

A TEI-XML record with complete metadata is available at https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Shemon-Eshai/tei.

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