Beautiful Egypt 320 – “The Decree…Of Freedom” – 30/10/2019
In the previous article we started tackling Pope Zacharias the 64th Patriarch of Alexandria who was chosen during the reign of Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah, and the hardships which faced him as the hardships of Christians persecution and accusing him falsely of correspondence with Nubian and Abyssinian kings regarding state matters; which led Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah to arrest the Pope and some bishops then he ordered to throw the Pope with one of the monks to the lions, which didn’t harm them.
Fr. Menassa Youhanna continued describing what happened: “The governor punished the person who cared for the lions as he imagined that their abstinence from eating them because the lions ate too much, so he kept them starving for a few days then he slaughtered a sheep and put some stains of its blood on the clothes of the Patriarch and the monk, then he threw them again in front of the lions that did exactly as before and didn’t harm them. He sent them back to prison. The governor kept persecuting the Copts for 9 years…”
That situation kept as it was, and the Patriarch stood firmly and confronted pain saying: “I depend on the powerful God who supports me”, until one of the princes interfered and asked Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah to have mercy on Pope Zacharias. Thus the governor exiled the Pope to one of the monasteries of the Desert of Scetis (the desert of Shehit) and he insisted strictly on his non departure and non correspondence with other Patriarchs, or Nubian and Abyssinian kings unless Al-Hakim saw it first and knew its content. Also Al-Hakim sent requesting the kings that their correspondence should be directly with him.
That situation lasted for 9 years and that was considered one of the worst hardships that the Copts of Egypt faced whereas they suffered a lot of sorrows, troubles, hardships and demolishing a lot of churches.
As we previously mentioned; Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah gave permission to the Christians and the Jews who wished to convert back to their religion. Some of the books of Coptic history mentioned that a monk named Biman who left his religion, and had a great prestige from the Caliph, after a period of time he wanted to convert back to Christianity and the governor allowed him, not only that but he also succeeded to make him issue a decree to stop the persecutions against the Coptic people.
Then Biman the monk returned to Abi Sefein church, and the Caliph used to visit him regularly there. During one of those visits, the Caliph saw Pope Zacharias and was astonished to see him wearing ragged clothes, surrounded by some bishops. He asked about his authorities and powers.
Severus Ibn Al-Muqaffa mentioned that when the Caliph saw Pope Zacharias and the bishops he talked to them: “Is he your superior? They said yes Mawlana; may the Lord preserve your rule. The Caliph was astonished and said: Till where does his rule end? They replied his rule is carried out in Egypt, Abyssinia, Nubia, the five western cities, Africa and others. So he was very astonished and asked how do all of those obey him without soldiers or money to spend on them? They said all those tribes obey him with a cross…”
The governor grew astonished.
Fr. Menassa Youhanna mentioned: “He left the church and they didn’t have the slightest idea of what he was going to do to them, they stayed in the church waiting for the horrifying death…after a few hours, the whole church shouted knowing that the Caliph returned back to them…He handed the Pope a decree in which he granted freedom to Coptic people and restoring everything that had been taken away from them…!!”
Later on Pope Zacharias cared for restoring and building the demolished churches for approximately twelve years.
During his papacy Deir Shahran was built which is now known as “the Monastery of St. Barsoum El-Erian”. The Papacy of Pope Zacharias on the See of St. Mark lasted for nearly twenty-seven years; nine of which he spent during his exile in the Wilderness of Shehit. He died in 1032 AD, and Pope “Shenouda II” succeeded him, that was during the rule of Az-Zahir the Caliph, son of Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah.