A Light for our modern times
by Ed Rizkalla
This March 9th, 2011 commemorates the memorial for the departure of Pope Cyril VI, one of the most beloved Popes of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt, a 20th century aesthetic, a spiritual father for many contemporary Copts, and a saint with well-attested God-given prophecies and miracles. The writer would like to take this opportunity to offer thanks, all honor and glory to the ONE Triune God of all creation, and a tribute to His faithful servant and saint Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria. May Christ the Lord grant us all His peace, grace and blessings through the prayers and intercessions offered on our behalf by Pope Cyril VI and all His saints.
Pope Cyril VI was born on August 2, 1902 in a Coptic family at the town of Damanhur in northern Egypt. After graduation from school he worked for several years, however he decided to pursue and lead an aesthetic life as a monk in 1927. He joined the Paromeos Monastery, was initially named as Father Mina al-Baramousy, and later on known as Father Mina the Anchorite. He was consecrated as Pope Cyril VI, Pope and Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt on May 10th, 1959.
In the decades prior to the papacy of Cyril VI, signs of spiritual slumber if not the lack of spiritual warmth and vigor seem to have prevailed among many Copts. However, the ONE Triune God of all mercies, ever desirous to save His people everywhere and at all times, aroused a man after His own heart among the Copts, Pope Cyril VI to reawaken, revive, and rejuvenate the spiritual warmth and vigor among His flock in Egypt. He was first and foremost a man of prayers who followed Christ the Lord with a faithful and pure heart. He was a man of God, to whom God has granted His Holy Spirit in abundance. As a monk he catered to the spiritual needs of young people, and became a spiritual father of many students, whom he inspired both to serve and pursue knowledge. He started writing and publishing a magazine named the “Haven of Salvation” in his early years at the Paromeos Monastery and continued to do so for many years. As a Pope he continued to inspire the young to pursue knowledge, service and established a modern printing press to help disseminate religious literature. Christ the Lord granted him the power to perform miraculous healing and the gift of prophecy, as attested by thousands of people who sought him for healing and deliverance from problems. This writer, as a young man, has witnessed how one of his prophesies for a family member came true, and a miraculous healing for another family member from a stroke after he visited her in a dream subsequent to his departure from the land of the living. Perhaps Pope Cyril VI will always be remembered as the Pope in whose time the apparition of the Virgin Mary at al-Zeiton Church started to take place in April 1968. This was an unusual and owe-inspiring spiritual occurrence which lasted for almost a year and was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of Copts, Muslims and people from all over the world. Pope Cyril VI will be remembered as a man of faith, vision, indomitable spirit, and for his association with Saint Mina. His effort to resurrect the ancient Saint Mina’s Monastery, a well-known destination for Christian pilgrimage in late antiquity, which was destroyed in the 10th century AD, provides a glimpse of his vision and indomitable spirit. He started his efforts to resurrect the ancient Saint Mina’s Monastery in 1937. He continued these efforts, throughout the years regardless of many disappointments and setbacks. After consecration as a Pope, he started the construction of the modern Saint Mina Monastery in November 1959.
At this time, the vast majority of the Egyptian people, both Muslims and Copts alike, are optimistic and hopeful of better times ahead, after the “relatively” peaceful Youth Lotus movement and vivid signs of unity amongst its Muslim and Coptic population. There is reason for hope and cautious optimism for the days ahead, albeit some disappointing and disturbing episodes illustrating continued intolerance and fanaticism, e.g. a Muslim mob’s attack against the Coptic population at the village of Soul and torching their local Church as recent as March 4th, 2011(3). The most hoped for and best scenario for future events in Egypt is one which brings about peace, stability, justice and equal rights to all regardless of their faith and beliefs. In times of uncertainties as ours, perhaps it may be useful to bring to mind some of the early efforts of Pope Cyril VI in his long quest to resurrect the ancient Saint Mina Monastery. This can be illustrated by a letter he wrote on May 14, 1946. A brief excerpt thereof (4) is as follows “How are things at your end regarding this matter? May God the almighty straighten out these conditions, grant peace, calm, and tranquility to His Holy Church, bring the designs of evil men to naught, and grant not the wishes of the oppressors. You’ll find in these circumstances, we remain at peace thanking the Lord for all things, imploring Him for assistance, help and to grant us the Monastery of Saint Mina at Mariuot, so we may be able to start its reconstruction and offer the oblations up there. This is the hope, Uncle Hanna. Be strong in this regards, for it is very, very, very important. The grace of the Lord be with you all.”
The peace of the Lord be with you all. Irene Passe.
(1) Abba Kyrillos VI, the 116th Pope of Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Synaxarium, reading for the Coptic month Meshir 30th, 1727AM (March 30, 2011 AD) http://www.copticchurch.net/classes/synex.php?g_month=3&g_day=9&g_year=2011&btn=View&lang=#2 .
(2) Pope Cyril of Alexandria, a Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_VI_of_Alexandria
(3) Nearly 4000 Muslims attack Christian homes in Egypt, Torch a Church, by Mary Abedelmassih, AINA.org, posted on the Free Copts web site, March 4, 2011
(4) My reflections on the life of Pope Cyril VI, by R. Abba Mina, (in Arabic) part II, published by the sons of Pope Cyril VI, P.O. Box 40, Shoubra Gardens, Cairo, Egypt, 1959.
Ed Rizkalla is a management consultant and freelance writer. He is the founder of Pharos on the Potomac Group (POPG), a non-profit organization at Annandale, VA.