Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa
|Patriarch of the Chaldeans|
|Church||Chaldean Catholic Church|
|See||Amid of the Chaldeans|
|Installed||28 April 1553|
|Term ended||January 1555|
|Successor||Abdisho IV Maron|
|Birth name||Yohannan Sulaqa|
Yohannan Sulaqa's ascension as Patriarch was part of the 1552 schism in the Chaldean Church of the East which resulted in the establishment of rival patriarchates. He was elected by Chaldean people that opposed the hereditary patriarchal succession within the Abuna family, and he took the unification step in the Church of the East: he traveled to Rome, accepted the Catholic creed and was consecrated as Patriarch in 1553. His reign did not last long though: Upon his return, Sulaqa was imprisoned by the Ottoman leader of Amadiyah, tortured, and executed in January 1555. He is considered a martyr of the Catholic Church.
Up to Yohannan Sulaqa, the Chaldean Church of the East was united in a single patriarchate and the Episcopal see was located in the ancient Chaldean city of Alqosh. In the 15th century the Patriarch Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437–1493) made the office hereditary in his own family, 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, 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 Chaldean 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 Chaldean 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 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 Chaldean patriarch by the pope. 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 Chaldean 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. 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, suggest on the contrary that Shimun VII did not die in 1551 but reigned till 1558, 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 Chaldean 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). 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 Chaldean Christian name of Shimun VIII.
Yohannan Sulaqa traveled land via to Constantinople and from there to the northern Chaldean 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, shortly after ordaining five metropolitans. For Catholics he is considered a Chaldean 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" (Mesopotamia) in Rome, not in a restrictive sense, but meaning of the Church of the East., which was founded in Mesopotamia. The Chronicle of the Carmelites states that Sulaqa was proclaimed Patriarch of the Chaldeans on April 19, 1553 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 Chaldea)
The identity of Chaldeans had a history of being used in an ethnically and geographically, having been previously officially used by the Council of Florence in 1445 as a native name for a group of Nestorians of Cyprus who entered in Full Communion with the Catholic Church. Rome followed to use the term Chaldeans to indicate the members of the Church of the East in Communion with Rome (and 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
Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa was the first incumbent of the Shimun line of the Chaldean 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 Chaldean 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 broke formally the communion with Rome and returned his members to the Nestorian Church. The patriarchate of the present-day Assyrian Nestorian Church, with its See in Chicago, forms the continuation of this line.
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