Beautiful Egypt 417 – «Pope Mikhail II» – 22/9/2021

Beautiful Egypt 417 – «Pope Mikhail II» – 22/9/2021

Last article concluded tackling Pope Kyrillos II who departed in 1092 AD, and today we are tackling his successor: Pope Mikhail II.

Pope Mikhail II (1092- 1102)

He is the 68th Patriarch of Alexandria. After the departure of Pope Kyrillos II, the senior priests of Alexandria gathered with the senior laymen (the senior Copts) to select the father patriarch who would shoulder such great responsibility; the historians state that they spent days to choose a successor of Saint Mark the Apostle, but they did not come to agree on a united decision, so they gathered up with the father bishops, held long discussions but came to no agreement either! Then they met with father bishops from Upper Egypt at “Saint Martyr Mercurius” to discuss the matter together; they mentioned the names of a number of monks, however, they agreed on nobody. They decided to gather with the father monks of Scetis wilderness at Wadi Al-Natroun, in order to hold prayers and select whoever is suitable for the See of Saint Mark.

In the monastery of Saint Macarius the Great at Wadi Al-Natroun, they met again and raised the issue once more, the name of monk “Samuel the Recluse” of Al-Syrian was mentioned, so they decided to ordain him a patriarch, and a number headed to bring him. Before reaching him, God had arranged their encounter with some people who informed them that the faith of monk Samuel is not firm according to the Orthodox Church, so they retreated on their decision. After spending days in prayer and reviewing the issue, they were informed about a recluse monk priest resided in the cell of Singar called Mikhail: A virtuous man of knowledge, keeper of orthodox faith and is worthy of such great responsibility, his hagiographer stated: “They all marched to Singar, where they met a group of its people and asked them about his status. All whom they asked gave them beautiful traits in describing him. When they got sure of what they were told, they unanimously agreed on consecrating him a patriarch.” They tested his faith and knowledge, and decided his ordination due to his deep knowledge, setting three conditions for him:

1- He shall prohibit simony (Obtaining priesthood ranks for paid money), as it is prohibited according to the canons and whoever practices simony shall be excluded.

2- He shall pay money to the churches of Alexandria in order to restore them and hold prayers.

3- To restore to some bishops the money of the churches they had been deprived of forcefully by some former patriarchs.

The monk priest “Mikhail the Recluse” agreed on these conditions, ratified them in his handwriting, making four copies, he then was brought to the Hanging Church of Saint Mary where he was ordained a patriarch on the See of Saint Mark the Apostle in 1092, during the reign of Caliph Al-Mustansir.

It was not so long before the bishop of Egypt came to the father patriarch, seeking his fulfillment of the promise to restore the churches, however, he denied, claiming his refusal of these conditions. He had managed beforehand to seize three copies, while the last one remained with the bishop of Egypt who confronted the patriarch with his own handwriting! The patriarch attempted to take this copy but the bishop refused. Relations between the patriarch and the bishop of Egypt worsened, that the patriarch prevented the bishop of Egypt from holding prayers. The bishop headed to the Monastery of Al-Qalamun in Fayoum and stayed there until the patriarch was pressed to restore him as the people had revolted. Both of them co-lived in peace for a while, yet no sooner had aversion returned to take place between them, the patriarch so decided to get rid of the bishop of Egypt. He held a council with the bishops, and alleged the bishop had broken the church laws, so the council decided his excommunication. Knowing about this decision, the bishop disappeared, so the patriarch laid hands upon his churches!

During the second year of Pope Mikhail II’s papacy, the Commander of Armies fell sick, leaving his son, Al-Afdal to take on his responsibility after Al-Mustansir had issued a decree entrusting him with the state affairs. Caliph Al-Mustansir Billah passed away, and was succeeded by his son, Al-Mustaa’li Billah.

During the days of this patriarch, the Nile water in Egypt decreased, urging him to travel to meet the Ethiopian king who received him welcomingly. When the king of Ethiopia knew about the Nile issue, he ordered the opening of one of the dams in order for water to flow to Egypt. This was the first visit paid by the patriarch of Alexandria to Ethiopia since its religious submission to Alexandria. Afterwards, the Metropolitan of Ethiopia passed away, urging the king of Ethiopia to ask for another metropolitan to be ordained. The patriarch ordained a monk called Girgis for the Ethiopians, but he had lust for money and the Ethiopians refused him, the Ethiopian king compelled him to restore all the money, then he sent him back to Egypt. The Ethiopian king raised a complaint to Minister Al-Afdal, who arrested the metropolitan and cast him into prison until his death.

In 1102, the father patriarch was struck by Plague and died after a period of 9 years, seven months and a half spent as a patriarch, he was succeeded by Pope Makkar II… And stories in beautiful Egypt never end!

The General Bishop

Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center