The New York Times15 April 1918


Syrian Catholicos First Head of a Nationality to Perish in the War.

The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief last night gave out the following concerning Mar Shimun, head of the Assyrian Church, who was killed recently, according to a cablegram received by the State Department at Washington on Saturday.

Mar Shimun is the first political head of a nationality who has paid the supreme sacrifice of this war. To his people he was both King Albert and Cardinal Mercier. In 1903, when a boy of 16, Mar Shimun was selected to become Catholicos or Patriarch, to succeed his uncle, Ruwel Reuben, who was on the point of death. He was consecrated Catholicos on April 12 of that year. He was educated by native teachers and by members of the mission established by Archbishop Benson of Canterbury at the Patriarchal seat, Qudshants, (Kochannes,) in Kurdistan.

His elder sister, Surma, who ranked next to him in influence over his people, also was educated at the mission and later became a recognized authority on canon law and Church history.

Attacked by the Turks in June, 1915, Mar Shimun and his 125,000 Assyrian highlanders defended the narrow valley of their mountain home, which might be termed a Switzerland in Asia. After Turkish mountain guns had battered down ancient castles and churches, the Assyrians were forced to abandon their valley and retreat to mountain fastnesses.

When their supplies ran out, Mar Shimun, with a handful of warriors, risked great perils to reach the Russian lines at Salmas, Persia, but the Russians, weakened by the loss of Warsaw, could give no assistance. Then, Mar Shimun, returning to his people, was forced to lead them down to the plateaus of Northwestern Persia, where they scattercd over the plains of Salmas and Urumiah. There 15 per cent. Of them died from cold and hunger.

As 138th Catholicos of the east he maintained the ancient traditions and his people almost worshipped him.

The New York Times