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Practical and Mystical: Patriarch Kyrillos VI (1959-1971)

Today the memory of Kyrillos has become somewhat overshadowed by the steady news of miraculous interventions attributed to Kyrillos’s intercession after his passing away. In death his influence stretches far beyond Egypt. For example, one of the latest miracles that happened during the fall of 2005 unfolded in Iraq where his miraculous intervention rescued the American husband of a Coptic woman deployed there from certain death.

In this essay I discuss some of the bases for Kyrillos’s vision for the Coptic Church that led to the revival movement that continues to this day. By fostering a focus on the life of the Spirit, he rose above the many disputes and distractions around him. In a potentially lethal political climate he stayed aloof from politics. In a time when Muslim extremism affected the Coptic community negatively, Kyrillos reached out to Muslims, fostering strong relationships with the Muslim community and thus modeling a form of interreligious dialogue built on the fruits of the Spirit. During his time the door of the papal residence was always open to all, and many of those frequenting his residence were Muslims. Even today Muslims continue to visit his grave asking for intercession.

Holiness and Action

The memories of Kyrillos VI are kept alive by Abuna Rafa’il of the Monastery of St. Menas, who served as his personal deacon. Every year a booklet appears detailing the miracles that occurred through the intercession of the late patriarch. There are now over one hundred volumes in various languages, and the number is growing. Short biographies of Anba Kyrillos have been translated into English and other languages for the second generation of Coptic immigrants. To date we have two works, by Mark Gruber and Brigitte Voile, with chapters that provide a more critical analysis. (1)

This man was a towering personality, not only in charisma but, judging by the size of his house shoes–now on display opposite his grave in the Monastery of St. Menas–in physical size as well. He turned the course of the Coptic Church into a story of development and growth when it could just as well have become an inward-looking, dogmatic institution with dwindling membership. Not only did he reform the church, he also initiated a true nahda–a revival or renaissance–that today can be witnessed in the church’s clerical hierarchy, religious and social life, and cultural expressions. His accomplishments testify to the fact that Kyrillos was not just a holy man; he was also brilliant in reading the signs and needs of his time. His creativity lay in the fact that he created new spaces for Copts in which they could unfold their identity and practice their faith. His greatness lay in his deep psychological insights and understanding of what constitutes the Coptic identity and how the traditional and ancient Christian faith could translate into renewed forms applicable to the twentieth century. These innate traits, however, might have remained inactive without Kyrillos’s charisma that was augmented by his strong life of prayer.

Kyrillos followed a style all his own that combined interest in the smallest detail with teaching in maxims following the great tradition of the desert fathers. For example, he gave advice about the design and length of the uniforms of the active sisters from the Convent of St. Mary in Beni Suef, reasoning that the dress should not touch the ground because that would make the sisters trip when climbing onto a bus. He even thought about the color: beige for novices, grey for sisters–not black, because that would scare children in the sisters’ day-care centers. At the same time, he addressed complex issues by example or by giving an apophthegm or a maxim; a “word,” resembling the spiritual advice or comment given by the earliest desert fathers. Stories about his method of teaching by example abound. For example, Kyrillos asked the abbot who planned to dismiss one of his monks whom he deemed unfit for the monastic life to send the monk to the patriarchal residence in Cairo. After several weeks of living together, the patriarch found no fault in the monk and had him return to his monastery, and he then presented the abbot with a bill for the monk’s room and board for the time spent in Cairo.

Several Copts have written biographies that are now available in many languages. The few writings Kyrillos himself produced are mostly in the form of newsletters and letters. This material is readily available in the book exhibits in churches from Amsterdam to New Brunswick, while the main outlet for Coptic production, the Mahabba bookstore in Cairo, continues to dedicate an entire wall to writings by and about Anba Kyrillos. Non-Coptic writers such as Gruber, a Benedictine monk, have placed Kyrillos’s action in the framework of a planner and designer, while Brigitte Voile has explored every detail about his comings and goings while in the patriarchal position.

In this essay I analyze Kyrillos’s methods in bringing about church revival. I look at his vision and how it was applied in practice. His vision entailed a redefinition of church leadership and a redefinition of the Coptic identity that was fully Egyptian yet forged in such a way that it could be carried outside of Egypt’s borders and encourage peaceful coexistence with the Muslim population.

A new vision for the church

When on May 10, 1959, Kyrillos became the 112th successor in the See of St. Marc, he ruled a church whose members could potentially become deeply divided. The community was still reeling from the unprecedented events of 1954 when Patriarch Yusab II had been forced to sign a document of abdication upon accusations of simony. After Yusab’s death on November 13, 1956, it took three years and the intervention of President Nasser (in 1957) before the Copts agreed on how and whom to choose as successor. (2)

Since the time of the first modern reformer, Patriarch Kyrillos IV (1854-1861), a rift had grown between the church’s lay members and its clerical hierarchy. This rift became visible, for example, when in 1874 the lay council of the Coptic community was established that oversaw the administration of personal status affairs and the management of church property and religious endowments. In 1892 a crisis arose when the well-educated members of the council grew tired of the obstructionist behavior of the ultraconservative patriarch Kyrillos V (1874-1927) who had closed the newly established seminary (1875) and tried to render the lay council’s efforts futile. After several months of exile in a desert monastery, the patriarch returned. Understanding that there was no other choice he promptly reopened the seminary.

While at the onset of the twentieth century the rift between educated lay Copts and a largely uneducated church hierarchy grew, by the year 1959 another rift had taken hold of the church. Educational reformation had opened the state schools for Copts from the lower-middle and middle classes as well. This generation, who had started to graduate from university by the early 1950s, had taken up leadership positions within the church, especially serving in Sunday schools. These young adults came partly from the countryside and had priorities and goals in life that differed from those of the Coptic elite. At the same time, the upper-class Copts were hard hit by Nasser’s industrial and land reforms that had taken most of their possessions.

Beginning a reign in this confusing landscape was ominous at best. Yet, when asked in an interview about his goal for the Coptic Orthodox Church, Kyrillos answered that he would “pray to God that he would return to the church her original glory with the cooperation of her sincere sons.” He did not elaborate during the interview about how he planned to do this, but in his first papal letter he asked that “all sons, brethren, deacons, church members, priests, bishops, metropolitans, members of El-Majlis al-Milli, organizations and community groups; all servants would work in unison and self-denial.” (3)

This language was not inclusive; Kyrillos was addressing a male-led, male-oriented church. However, by no means did he mean to exclude women as he encouraged them to move into semi-official positions within the church hierarchy. His essential view of the church was that it should be like a pigeon tower: open for all to fly into. In the tower there is room for all, while nobody (male, female, Coptic and non-Coptic) is sent away empty-handed. Quoting Abuna Rafa’il:

He never judged or excommunicated anybody; to him love was a virtue that can develop through practice similar to the learning process in school. He was humble; anybody who wanted could meet him but at the same time he guarded himself and used to say “love everyone but keep yourself distant.” (4) 


Perhaps we could add to this observation that he never excommunicated anybody for long, although there was the famous incident when Father Matta al-Miskin was briefly excommunicated as punishment for being stubborn and refusing to obey Kyrillos’s requests.


The incident with Matta al-Miskin is informative as it shows us that, when challenged, Kyrillos was no pushover but did know to wield power. In 1962 he had the journal Misr closed after it waged a campaign against what it considered his lack of reform measures, and in 1965 he asked Nasser to issue a presidential decree that transferred some of the powers of the lay council to the Patriarch. (5)

Before becoming a patriarch, he already had shown sublime skills of putting members of the hierarchy in their place. While still a young monk he derived the authority for his audacity from the fact that he lived the solitary life of a hermit. Having been ordained as the monk Mina in the Monastery of Baramous in 1927, a mere five years later he requested permission to withdraw into the desert. Although permission was not denied, the idea met with great resistance from more senior monks who were aware of the dangers and pitfalls of the solitary lifestyle. Kyrillos managed to deflate their objections and went off into the desert. In fact, most of his monastic career he lived outside the Monastery of Baramous.

Perhaps it was his withdrawal to the desert that kept him unaware of problems brewing inside the monastery. In 1936, returning for the Easter celebrations, he ran into a committee of officials who had been called by the abbot to expel seven monks from the monastery. In retrospect, this event proved formative in Kyrillos’s career, as it was the beginning of his “public” career as a solitary that eventually led him to move into the mill on the Muqattam hills just outside Cairo. Affronted by the idea of expelling seven monks during the holy time of Easter, Kyrillos moved from the desert to Old Cairo where he set up a residence with the seven monks. Both the bishop in charge of the monastery and the patriarch summoned him to explain himself. The relatively young monk (34 years old) had no problem rebuking these high-powered figures. When he pointed at the bishop’s luxurious robes and living quarters (6) and reminded Patriarch Yu’annis XIX of the fact that expelling the monks had been against monastic law, the prelates had no response.

Although Kyrillos respected the church hierarchy, he was a master in circumventing official decisions he disagreed with–without breaking the rules. For example, in 1944 the Patriarch appointed him abbot of the remote Monastery of St. Samuel, allegedly to move the unruly monk far from Cairo. A few weeks into his new position, Kyrillos passed the daily duties into the hands of a prior and returned to Cairo to be in charge of the Christian student hostel.

Kyrillos pursued his vision for monastic renewal with great determination: by living as a hermit, by his refusal to break the monastic rules, and by living in the mill. Apart from living a rigorous form of the monastic life himself, he kept his eye on the future by gathering a group of young, bright Copts in the student hostel who joined his effort to revive one of the main centers of the early church, the monasteries, as he prepared them for a call into monasticism or the priesthood. One of the novel aspects of his approach was that he included women in his project of renewal. None of these groups fit into the monastic model that existed up to the 1950s.

While stressing the importance of monasticism, however, Kyrillos’s vision of the pigeon tower necessarily included the laity as they provided the voluntary human resources that carried the church in daily life. In order to include them in the church, he reorganized the daily discipline into one that could be followed by everyone.

Daily discipline: Everyone a monk

Like all athletes of Christ who excel in the practice of asceticism and the life of prayer, Kyrillos understood the necessity of a rigorous discipline, not only for the church but especially for its lay members. In order to reach the laity he started to distribute his handwritten comments on the Bible and the teachings of the early fathers in a bulletin called The Salvation Post. Teaching intense focus on the sayings of Christ, he stressed that through Christ’s message lay people could become vehicles of change just as much as those living the monastic life. (7)

In search of new ways to apply the ancient church teachings, Kyrillos mined the Coptic tradition to find applications that were strict but just. “He was very strict,” according to his spiritual son, the late Anba Athanasius, bishop of Beni Suef (d. 2000). Practicing a life of intense prayer himself, he realized that the average lay Copt could benefit from the fruits of the spirit by returning to the biblical practice of participating in the bread and wine as often as possible via the daily liturgy. While in the midst of busy lives, people can make it a habit to attend church, and by participating in the Holy Liturgy they face the day or week with renewed strength.

Returning the heritage

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Copts had discovered a new Egyptian identity as “the sons of the pharaohs.” Concurrently, their identity was firmly anchored in early Christian teachings, although most Copts had little knowledge of the roots of their tradition.

Kyrillos realized that true Coptic identity was shaped in the pharaonic-Greco-Roman Byzantine Christian world where a battle between the Christian faith and heretical movements such as Arianism and Gnosticism had been influential in shaping the new faith. Restoring the Coptic collective memory of this era seemed more efficacious to church renewal than stressing the pharaonic roots. Theories from scholars such as Peter Berger, Maurice Halb-wachs, and Hobsbawm and Ranger confirm that the needs of the present help shape socially constructed and collective representations of the past. (8) A reinterpretation of the historic past can never consist of archaeological facts only but also needs to include images–albeit these may be reinvented images–of real beliefs and practices.

In a church that stresses and values the authority of its traditions, this process seems only natural as in the Coptic Church nothing seems to happen in the present that completely escapes “the grip of the past.” (9) To imbue the ancient memories, writings, and traditions with the carrying power of the present, Patriarch Kyrillos set out to revive the past and infuse it into the needs of the present. For example, celebrating the liturgy daily was based on the models of the early church and became one of the pillars of the current renewal–the New Testament speaks about the early communities of Christians coming together regularly to break the bread and drink the wine. Apart from the biblical practice, he brought back to life the sayings of those who had spent their lives imitating Christ and understanding the word of God: the early desert fathers and mothers. Their words were gathered by his disciples into a handbook, Bustan al-Ruhban (the Garden of the Monks), that is now readily available for both monastics and lay people. Recapturing the heritage also included famous events such as the return of the relics of St. Marc, taken to Italy by Venetian merchants in 828 A.D., to the newly built cathedral at Anba Ruwais on June 25, 1968.

In the rest of this essay I focus on three other initiatives where the past was infused into the present: (1) living the monastic life in the public eye, (2) rebuilding the ancient pilgrimage site of St. Menas in Maryoutis near Alexandria, and (3) allowing women to reenter official church activities.

Public monastic

At the time Kyrillos lived the solitary life, he was not the only one considered saintly. One of the famous hermits was Abuna Abd el-Masih el-Habashi, whom Kyrillos met when withdrawing into the desert of Wadi Natroun. Being an Ethiopian, El-Habashi practiced one of the most austere forms of solitary life. Little is known about this person apart from what Otto Meinardus reported about him. (10) But he could relay the secrets of life in solitude and showed that this ancient option of living the monastic life was still possible in the twentieth century. However, few ever saw him, and still fewer actually managed to speak to him. Otto Meinardus tried to retrieve information from this holy person by landing in front of his cave in a small plane. He was greeted by a grumbling hermit who refused to accept his cans of tuna repeating that it was “satan’s lure” confronting him here. (11)

Other monks who were considered saintly included Abuna Yustus (1910-1976) in the Monastery of St. Anthony and Abuna Andraus (d. 1988), the blind monk who guarded the Monastery of St. Samuel. Although stories about these monks circulated, they remained hidden away in their monasteries. The time of the mass pilgrimage had not yet started, and few Copts ever traveled to the monasteries.

When in 1936 Kyrillos left his monastery in order to take care of the seven monks who were evicted, the occasion provided a new phase in the life of Abuna Mina al-Mutawahhid (Father Mina the Solitary), as Kyrillos was called at that time. Living in the windmill on the Muqattam hill, just outside Cairo, allowed him to become a “public monastic” who transformed into a saintly figure well known for his strong prayers that brought healing and consolation to the people. As we learn from the works of Peter Brown and others, in the end sainthood is a joint effort in which the saint interacts with the public and thus becomes a model for religion. (12) Recognizing saintly behavior is crucial for the saint’s message to reach the audience and transform the religious life of his or her day. (13)

To strengthen his spiritual efforts, Kyrillos relied on the teachings of seventh-century Syrian Nestorian ascetic Isaac of Nineveh, who practiced a rigorous spirituality in Iran’s southwestern desert. Living in a state of extreme solitude, after escaping the position of Bishop of Mosul (or Nineveh), Isaac wrote a treatise on the perfect Christian that by the ninth century was translated into Arabic, Coptic, and Greek. Isaac was not one of the famous Coptic desert fathers such as St. Anthony or St. Macarius whose writings were widely read in the Coptic Church. Neither had he lived before the time of Islam, as these fathers had. He provided a new model showing that even after the Muslim invasion the church was still vigorous.

More recently, the discovery of relics such as those of the famous Saint Samaan (tenth century) were found in 1992 during excavations at a church in Old Cairo.

By being a public monastic Kyrillos showed that this way of living could be followed by well-educated Copts. He also showed that it was equally feasible for devout Copts to follow a life of the spirit, in spite of the fact that visible models were lacking. Kyrillos showed the heart of religion, and by going public he invited others to follow. Although considered to be a thaumaturge, or miracle worker, observations from that time state that “Nothing was strange about his appearance, about his speech. But what he said conveyed meaning; the man was simple and deep but all natural.” (14) Kyrillos did not fly in the air or perform miracles in public; things happened naturally–almost as if they were to be expected.

Practicing his lifestyle in public imitated the way most hermits had lived in the early centuries. They had not been separated from the world but were in constant interaction with visitors who came to seek their advice and blessing. As Coptologist Chrisy Koutsifou has pointed out, some hermits expected to be visited, and some, when leaving their dwelling, left a message behind telling the visitors when they would be back. (15)

As for the miracles, Kyrillos himself invariably referred to Saint Menas, who he believed was the real wonder worker. In an act of double intercession, he asked Menas’s help, and both prayed to God. This type of intercession was a step removed from that of the ancient desert saints who could not refer to a favorite saint yet but ascribed their miracles solely to God’s working.

St. Menas

Well known are the stories about the relationship between St. Menas and Kyrillos. This bond, strong since his childhood, was expressed in Kyrillos’s name as a monk, Abuna Mina. Long before becoming patriarch, Kyrillos had approached Pope Yu’annis XIX with the (denied) request to revive the pilgrimage site of the saint that around the tenth century A.D. had fallen into ruins. Menas was martyred for his Christian faith during the time of Diocletian (reigned 284-305), and his body had been buried near Lake Mareotis between Wadi Natroun and Alexandria. There it had rested several centuries before his grave became the center of one of the biggest pilgrimage sites in antiquity. Churches were built around it together with guesthouses and baths in which pilgrims could immerse themselves in water that was believed to hold curative powers.

St. Menas was what Voile calls “a complete figure”; he had been soldier, hermit, and martyr, was internationally recognized, was venerated by both Christians and Muslims, and was in fact a national figure referred to by the Egyptian nationalist leader Ahmad Husayn in 1929 as a national hero who had resisted oppressors. (16)

Knowingly or unknowingly, Kyrillos had found the right model of a hero that not only the Copts but also Muslims and non-Egyptians could identify with. Working with the St. Menas Society that in 1945 had been set up in Alexandria to promote visits to the ancient pilgrimage site and pursue publications, Kyrillos’s first step as patriarch was to lay the foundation stone for a new monastery at the site. (17)

It was this deed that absolutely baffled outsiders. For example, the American journalist Edward Wakin, who at the time had written one of the few books in English about the Coptic community, observed that the Coptic community “was besieged, the minority anxious, the hierarchy, the clergy and monks in disarray, the church wounded by turmoil, and the Patriarch lays a foundation stone in a deserted place for another monastery.” (18)

He and other observers completely missed the brilliance of Kyrillos’s move. Reviving the pilgrimage site of a popular yet somewhat inactive saint by building a monastery on that spot served a twofold goal: (1) pilgrimage could be rerouted to the heart of the Coptic faith, and (2) the new pilgrimage took place not too far from Cairo. The monks living in the monastery would study and preserve the texts about the early saints. Monks, being specialists of ritual, tradition, and liturgy, could guide the pilgrims in their journey. The lives of the monks embodied the early martyrs who gave up everything for God and thus provided consolation and encouragement for Coptic believers. At the same time, the monastic lifestyle encouraged lay Copts to emulate the monks’ life of prayer and devotion in their homes. Thus they would anchor their children solidly in the Christian faith. (19)

The monks also continued the model of double intercession, made famous by Anba Kyrillos. While Kyrillos had asked for the intercession of St. Menas to carry the pleas of the people to God, the monks now placed the peoples’ requests on Kyrillos’s grave. Thus the world of the living and the dead had been united into a seamless universe.

The location of the Monastery of St. Menas near Alexandria was superb–not too far and not too near two large cities. Trips there were possible not only for the rich who had cars but also for the average Copt who used public transportation. Especially Copts who had moved to the cities from the countryside missed their annual moulids (festivals for the saints) and ziarah (pilgrimages). With the St. Menas site, Kyrillos returned the countryside to them–albeit in a modified version that fit better in his vision for a renewed Coptic Church. This new pilgrimage relied not on folkloristic rituals and beliefs but on the monastic institution and the intercessory powers of the saints.

The entire package of the reinvented pilgrimage also reached out to the growing numbers of young Copts who had enjoyed higher education, had moved to the cities, and were less prone to follow the folklore beliefs of their villages. Moreover, they were eager to serve the church, and pilgrimage provided them with spiritual food and models.

Since Kyrillos’s reign many old and dilapidated monastic sites have been rediscovered and restored. Visits to monasteries, holy sites, and moulids are more popular than ever. (20) Nowadays these activities have been drawn into the sphere of accepted church activities; the folkloristic elements are fading, while official church teachings have been infused into these visits. Thus they have not only become tools for consolation and encouragement; they also are educational and part of formation into the Coptic faith.


The third point I want to highlight is Anba Kyrillos’s attitude toward women. Considering his lifestyle, which relied on celibacy, and the fact that teachings abounded about the dangers of women as temptations, his attitude toward women was extraordinary. He encouraged them to join the official life of the church as much as he encouraged the men. The community of the Sisters of St. Mary in Beni Suef is one example of this new movement. There had not been a community for active nuns in the Coptic Church since the early centuries when female deaconesses had been among the church servants. Kyrillos discussed the new plan with the women and, as already mentioned, even provided detailed advice about their clothing. He also suggested not to be in a hurry but taking time to develop the new active community for women. This turned out to be very wise advice, because the sisters were treading on new ground in an area of service where the demands and needs were overwhelming. Just choosing where to spend the human resources was a challenge, as the community started with only three sisters. Their work now comprises numerous social and medical facilities that serve both Copts and Muslims.

Another remarkable development in the work for women was that the convents for contemplative nuns opened up for new calls. This was the result of appointing Ummina Irini as the superior of Dair Abu Seifain in Old Cairo. She had entered the convent as a semiliterate young girl but possessed the same type of intelligence and visionary powers as Kyrillos did. Although stories now abound about the miraculous cooperation between the convent’s patron saint Abu Seifain, or St. Mercurius, and Mother Irini, she was as careful a planner as Kyrillos was. With methodical precision she restored and expanded the abbey in Old Cairo, buying up the surrounding houses and providing the inhabitants with alternative dwellings elsewhere. For the surplus of nuns the convent now has, she built a farm in Sidi Krir, situated on the coastal road between Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh, to which nuns travel to do the agricultural work. Today the convent is part of the pilgrimage circuit and an important place where women can come for advice and consolation. Every Friday it is packed with visitors, and its moulid on December 4 attracts thousands who want to hear of the miracles that happened upon St. Mercurius’s intercession. Mother Irini is the one relating them, thus carrying on Kyrillos’s model of double intercession.

The story of double intercession does not stop at St. Menas and St. Mercurius but must be completed with the intervention of the Virgin Mary, with whom both Kyrillos and Mother Irini had and have strong bonds. She appeared to both of them regularly–so regularly that at times they forgot what the Mother of Jesus had advised them to do. The frequent apparitions of St. Mary in 1968 became one of the most powerful and comforting events for an entire nation reeling from the disastrous six-day war with Israel. After a Muslim mechanic experienced the vision first, it continued to draw crowds for months.

Conclusion: Fruits of the Spirit

The eulogy by Kyrillos’s successor Patriarch Shenouda III (1971-) summed up all of the areas in which Kyrillos had made a difference. Looking now at that speech, it turns out to have been a blueprint for action that he himself could follow. Monasteries and convents are overflowing with new members, and daily liturgies are celebrated by one of the many newly ordained priests in churches all over the country and in the West. The Coptic heritage is being studied and preserved. Coptic development projects, such as the ones with the garbage collectors on the Muqattam hill, draw national and international attention, while one of its main initiators, Anba Athanasius, received a national award for his development work in 1998.

Anba Kyrillos is now generally recognized as a saint based on manifold stories about the fruits of his intercession and prayers for people visiting his grave in the Monastery of St. Menas.

His reign as patriarch can be compared with Pope John XXIII, who in 1962 called the Second Vatican Council, or with Gandhi, whose single-minded focus on peaceful resistance changed Indian history. Similar to Gandhi, Kyrillos VI stood at the crossroads of history, from which position he tied together disparate movements and initiatives that, once combined, forged a new Coptic identity, self-representation, and reinvented tradition. When he died, Copts felt protected: although–due to President Nasser’s land reforms–they had lost much of their material wealth, their patriarch’s deep devotion had been accompanied by great spiritual events such as the frequent apparitions of the Virgin Mary and miracles of intercession and healing. Their church’s glory was restored and strengthened with the return of St. Mark’s relics. The patriarch was on good terms with the President who had contributed to the construction of the St. Mark cathedral. Both Copts and Muslims missed him sorely.

Of course, in the end his religious persona and lifestyle form the true basis of his actions and the love and respect he inspired in both Muslims and Christians. Kyrillos was a saintly person. Saints have a single focus: to please God and find God’s will. It was this focus that became transformed into a glorious vision for the Coptic Church and for the whole of Egyptian society.

A version of this essay was presented as a lecture at the American University of Cairo on November 30, 2005.

Nelly van Doorn-Harder
Valparaiso University


1. Mark Gruber, Sacrifice in the Desert: A Study of an Egyptian Minority through the Prism of Coptic Monasticism (Lanham, New York, Oxford: University Press of America, 2003), 84-91; Birgitte Voile, Les Coptes d’Egypte sous Nasser. Saintete, miracles, apparitions (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2004).

2. Voile, Les Coptes, 58.

3. Pope Kyrollos VI Sons, ed., The Fruits of Love: The Saint Pope Kyrollos the Sixth (Cairo, 1999), 6, 7.

4. Interview, Abuna Rafa’il, Monastery of St. Menas, October 19, 2005.

5. Voile, Les Coptes, 88, 210.

6. Hanna Youssef Ata, The Life of the Saint Pope Kyrollos the Sixth. Part I: From Childhood to Ordination, 1902-1959, 2d ed. (St. Menas Monastery, 2002).

7. Pope Kyrillos VI Sons, ed., I Am the Way (John 14:6) (Cairo, 2003), 11, 12.

8. Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Doubleday Anchor Books, [1967] 1990); Maurice Halbswachs, On Collective Memory, ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992); Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983).

9. Edward Shils, Center and Periphery: Essays in Macrosociology (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1975), 182.

10. Otto Meinardus, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts (Cairo: A.U.C. Press, 1961).

11. Personal communication with Dr. Otto Meinardus during the 1985 meeting of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), Hamburg, Germany.

12. Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 80-101.

13. Many examples are given by Aviad M. Kleinberg in Prophets in Their Own Country: Living Saints and the Making of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992).

14. Bishop Athanasius of Beni Suef, in interviews February 12-13, 1998.

15. Chrisy Koutsifou, “Social and Economic Relations of Monasteries in Byzantine Egypt,” Dean Huss Lecture, American University in Cairo, December 8, 2004. This example referred to the hermit Franges (seventh-eighth century).

16. Voile, Les Coptes, 196, 195.

17. For a short introduction to the site see Peter Grossmann, ABU MINA: A Guide to the Ancient Pilgrimage Center (Cairo: Fotiadis & Co., 1986).

18. Edward Wakin, A Lonely Minority: The Modern Story of Egypt’s Copts (New York: William Morrow, 1963), 112.

19. The Coptic model to raise children in an “ecclesial family” was based on the teachings of, among others, John Chrysostom (c. 347-407). See Vigen Guroian, “The Ecclesial Family: John Chrysostom on Parenthood and Children,” in The Child in Christian Thought, ed. Marcia Bunge (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 61-77.

20. For an analysis of the contemporary Coptic pilgrimage, see: Elizabeth Oram, “In the Footsteps of the Saints: the Monastery of St. Antony, Pilgrimage, and Modern Coptic Identity,” in: Elizabeth Bolman (ed.), Monastic Visions. Wall Paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony at the Red Sea. (Cairo: American Research Center in Egypt Inc. and New Haven, CT & London: Yale Univ. Press, 2002) 203-216.


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August 20, 2012