Beautiful Egypt 319 – “Pope Zacharias” – 23/10/2019

Beautiful Egypt 319 – “Pope Zacharias” – 23/10/2019

In the previous article we continued talking about Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah and what some historians mentioned about his claiming Deism and his disappearance in which there were different stories and sayings.

As for the Coptic Church in that Era, which was during the papacy of Pope Philotheos (979-1004 AD); and Pope Zacharias (Zechariah) the 64th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark who was his successor.

Pope Zacharias (1004-1032 AD)

After Pope Philotheos the 63rd Patriarch of Alexandria died, all Bishops gathered in St. Mark the Apostle church to choose a Patriarch and while they were discussing the matter, they heard news about one of the nobility of Alexandria named Abraham Bin Beshr as he took the opportunity of being a favorite person to Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah the Caliph and obtained a decree appointing Abraham as Patriarch and he was headed to Alexandria accompanied by some soldiers!!

All Bishops felt deep sorrow and agreed upon nominating father Zacharias as Patriarch, they ordained him under the name of Pope Zacharias. By the time Abraham Bin Beshr arrived to Alexandria, they had finished the ordination of the Patriarch. They tried to make Abraham Bin Beshr feel better so they ordained him as a priest then Archpriest.

Pope Zacharias was from the inhabitants of Alexandria who was known for his gentleness and his purity, he was ordained as a priest on St. Mickeal church in Alexandria. Then many opinions agreed upon nominating him as Patriarch, as we mentioned, some historians mentioned that he was very accurate in choosing bishops and their ordinations; to the extent that he appointed a Council of bishops responsible for discussing and solving religious problems. Most members of that Council were his relatives and acquaintances. But unfortunately they breached the trust of the Patriarch as well as the trust they had in their hands; as they accepted bribes. Their judgments were distorted and that had a deep effect on the Pope which made him confront distress, hardships and a lot of difficulties.


The Pope and the Lions

One of the hardships that Pope Zacharias confronted; there was a monk named Youhanna, it was mentioned that he was the priest of Abi Nofear village in Giza, he wanted to be a bishop and asked the Pope to ordain him, the Patriarch had a nephew who was a bishop in Sakha named bishop Mickeal who had a great love for money; so he asked Youhanna the monk for money to fulfill his wish. So Youhanna the monk promised him to pay the money after his ordination as a bishop; but Bishop Mickeal became very furious and started opposing against him. The Pope started discussing the issue of that person with the bishops but he found out that he was unsuitable so he refused his request. But Youhanna the monk insisted once again; so the Pope asked for some time to think about his ordination but he refused, in addition, he threatened to use his authorities and strong relations with the Statesmen!! But Pope Zacharias didn’t care for his threats and ordered him to leave.

Youhanna the monk presented his complaint to the Caliph, the news reached some Coptic writers who tried to calm things down and they sent their recommendation to the Caliph and a letter to the Pope pleading him to assign Youhanna the monk as a bishop.

Youhanna the monk carried both the recommendation and the letter to present to the Pope who was in Natroun Valley at that time. Bishop Mickeal met him and knew about the matter, he was afraid that the monk might be ordained and tried to get rid of him. When Pope Zacharias heard about that; he was very angry from his nephew and saved Youhanna the monk but he didn’t ordain him a bishop. Youhanna was very furious and presented many complaints to Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah against Pope Zacharias; he falsely accused the Pope of correspondence with the Nubian and Abyssinian kings regarding state matters and that Coptic people were suffering great persecutions. The Governor ordered to arrest Pope Zacharias and some bishops.

Fr. Menassa Youhanna mentioned: “He imprisoned them for 3 months, then he threw the Patriarch to the lions with another monk named Sosana the Nubian but no harm happened to them, on the contrary lions became very friendly!! It was mentioned that one of the lions used to come and kneel down to lick the feet of Sosana the monk!!”

Stories about Beautiful Egypt never end!

General Bishop,

Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center