Mar Äbdiyeşü XVII
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Church of the East
|Communion of the Church of the East|
| Assyrian Church|
Religion of Light
Chaldean Syrian Church
Church of the East in Arakan, Burma and Tenasserim
School of Samarqand
Monastery of Mar Toma
|Title:||Catholicos Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon|
|Term in office:||1992–Present|
|Predecessor:||Mar Bardaysan X|
|Date:||12- Kärgüyük, Qaban jıl 1935|
(12th September 1935)
|Place:||Vänj, Tajikistan Province, Turkestan|
|Relgious Affiliation:||Assyrian Church|
He was born in the town of Vänj in Tajikistan, Turkestan on 12th September 1935, the eldest son of two devout Tajiks who were proud to do what they could to further their son's ambition to enter the Assyrian priesthood. Saving all that they could, the couple were able in 1956 to send their son to the prestigious School of Samarqand, where he studied for the priesthood. Äbdiyeşü impressed his teachers both by his devotion to the faith and by his knowledge of the scriptures and academic ability, and was consecrated as priest in 1961 by Metropolitan Mar Stepän of Samarqand.
In 1978 he was consecrated as Bishop of Gürgan in Persia.
Following the death of the previous Catholicos Mar Bardaysan X in 1992, he was acclaimed Catholicos by the assembled Synod of Bishops. Declining to take a regnal name that differed from his given name, he was consecrated as Mar Abdiyeshu ("Servant of Jesus") XVII on 27th November of that year. The taking of regnal names is not compulsory or even fully customary for the leading Patriarch of the Church of the East. Some do take regnal names, and these are often very significant in terms of the emphases of their Patriarchate, but just as many do not.
His consecration as the premier Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church was not without controversy; Uyguristan's Assyrian population were less that thrilled at the prospect of a Turkestani as Catholicos due to the war being fought between the two nations.
However, Mar Äbdiyeşü had been a fairly outspoken advocate for peace since the beginning of the conflict, and this, combined with his generally acclaimed devotion, intellect and wisdom, was enough for all but the most ardent Uygur nationalists. Mar Äbdiyeşü played a small but pivotal role in the settlement of the war, prevailing on the Ilxan of Turkestan and the President of Uyguristan to accept the compromise proposal that formed the basis of the current status quo.
Mar Äbdiyeşü XVII's Patriarchate has been notable so far for its efforts towards ecumenicism. The Assyrian Church has previously been aloof from much contact with Western churches, and/or sceptical of ecumenical efforts beyond the Church of the East communion, but this appears to have changed with the accession of Catholicos Äbdiyeşü XVII. In 1994, he surprised the Metropolitan Synod of Xotan by personally accepting the invitation of the Orthodox monks of Mount Athos for a number of Assyrian monks to occupy the vacant Monastery of the Nativity.
By accepting the invitation personally, rather than just leaving the acceptance to the Metropolitan of Europe in Constantinople, he signalled his personal agreement with the idea, and placed the weight of his office behind it.
Soon, several monks from the Assyrian Church in Central Asia, Persia and the Middle East were studying Greek and journeying to the Monastic Republic to take up residence in the newly-renamed Monastery of Mar Toma (St. Thomas).
Mar Äbdiyeşü has also been by far the most mobile Catholicos of recent memory, making numerous executive visits to several of the more far-flung Metropolitan Sees of the Assyrian Church and its wider communion, being only the second Catholicos to personally visit the See of the Americas in Nome, Alyaska, as well as visiting all of the patriarchal sees of the various churches of the Communion of the Church of the East within his first five years in office.
Commentators from outside the Communion of the Church of the East are hopeful that this signals a permanent change in the Assyrian Church's historic isolationism with regard to the rest of Christendom, and certainly the signs are good that these churches are awakening to the need for ecumenical engagement.