On this day, April 19, 1959, a Sunday, Egyptian church authorities sealed three slips of paper in an envelope and placed on the altar in a Coptic cathedral. On each of those three papers was the name of a different monk who had been nominated to become the next Patriarch of the Copts. Many other nominees had been considered, but one by one they were weeded out by committee until only the three most respected names remained.
Sometime earlier, Metropolitan Athanasius asked a priest named Mina El-Baramousy why he did not partake in the selection of the next Coptic patriarch (or pope). Mina, a humble man, replied, "Your Holiness, may the Lord bless you and choose a good shepherd to guide His people with piety and purity of heart."
Athanasius then told Mina he had nominated him. In fact, Mina's name was one of the three in the envelope. After the morning service, which Mina did not attend--he was completing divine service in the church of St. Mina in Old Cairo-- a young deacon was given the honor of pulling out a name. He read it off. The crowd rejoiced, bells pealed and radio stations beamed the news far and wide. Mina El-Baramousy was the 116th Patriarch of the Coptic church. Mina, who always preferred solitude, and who had once run away rather than become a bishop, broke into tears. He completed the service he was conducting.
He prayed, "Glory be to God. The Lord has chosen to demonstrate his power and glory through my weakness. I tremble with fear for the glory of your power. You are just and right. You do not forget your beloved. From you we receive power and help, O, Our Lord and Redeemer."
Named Azer at his birth, he now took the name Kyrillos. His father had been a well-respected deacon who read Bible stories to his children and showed open-handed hospitality to visiting monks. Azer developed an early love for the Scriptures and converted his bedroom to a cell. As a young man he proved himself an honest worker, standing up to a hard foreman and returning a lost wallet. However, he was determined to become a monk.
As a monk, he volunteered for the hardest tasks. Whether scouring the kitchen or controlling a stubborn mule, he proved equal to every challenge. He gained a reputation as a defender of those who were falsely accused. His superiors required him to study theology and he did well at his studies although he would have preferred solitude. He actually lived as a hermit for many years.
One of the most significant moments in Kyrillos' reign came when the Pope Paul VI of the Roman Church returned the relics of St. Mark to the Copts. These had been stolen by Venetian merchants four hundred years earlier. Kyrillos himself carried the box of precious bones the last few feet to its resting place.
- Cannuyer, Christian. Coptic Egypt: the Christians of the
New York : Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
- Fowler, Montague. Christian Egypt. London: Church Newspaper Co., 1901.
- Mileham, Geoffrey S. Churches in Lower Nubia. Philadelphia: University Museum, 1910.
- "Pope St. Kyrillos VI." Multimedia Web Gallery. http://www.zeitun-eg.org/stcyril6/.
- "Pope Saint Kyrillos VI (Cyril VI), 116th Pope of Alexandria (1959-1971)." St. Takla Church, Alexandria, Egypt. http://st-takla.org/Pope-Kyrellos-1.html.
- Tyndale, Walter. Below the Cataracts. London: Wm Heinemann, 1907. Source of the image.
Last updated May, 2007.