Last article continued tackling Pope Youhanna V and some incidents of his days until his departure in 1166, he was succeeded by Pope MorcosIbnZaraa.
Pope MorcosIbnZaraa (1166- 1189 AD)
He is the seventy-third patriarch of Alexandria. His name before ordination as a patriarch was Aba Al-Faraj bin AbiAsaad, and he was known as IbnZaraa, being named after his great-grandfather, he is of Syriac origin. Muslims and Christians bore witness to his piety, righteousness and chastity; His biographer states: “And poor me, the writer of this biography, saw this father before his ordination, I was rather neighboring him in the city of Egypt; many Muslims and Christians in Egypt bore witness to his chastity, religion, fasting, prayer, charity and doing good to all people. He was a celibate who never married, he was never known to have a slip or have stumbled in anything. He was of good knowledge of his religion and an expert in matters of the priesthood.” His predecessor, Pope Youhanna V, predicted that he would be ordained as a patriarch after him.Thus, when the patriarchal chair was vacant after the departure of Pope YouhannaV, people remembered his words and unanimously chose Abu al-Faraj bin AbiAsaad as the successor of Saint Mark the Apostle, this happened during the era of Caliph Al-Adid Li Din Allah, the last Caliph of the Fatimid state in Egypt.
The days of Pope MorcosIbnZaraawitnessed instability and several wars; as mentioned in previous articles, matters in Egypt got worse during the days of Minister Shawar; as he concluded treaties with the Franks and allowed them to be settled in Cairo and to control its gates, he supplied them with large sums of money. In 564 AH (1169 AD), the Franks returned to Egypt trying to seize it; they came from the coast until they reached the city of Belbeis, where they killed and captured many and destroyed the city. Then they headed to Egypt and besieged it, but they faced stiff resistance from the Egyptians. Meanwhile, Shawar ordered the burning of Egypt butNur al-Din hastened to deter them by sending armies led by Asad al-Din Shirkuh accompanied by his nephew Salah al-Din Yusuf IbnAyyub (Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi). When the Franks received news of the arrival of the armies, they drew back from Egypt and headed again to the coast. Asad al-Din dwelt with his armies at the gate of Cairo, and Caliph Al-Adid appointed him as the minister of the country. It was mentioned that: “This was a memorable day, incomparable around this world, and he was appointed a minister and ruled.”
About the relationship of Assad al-Din and the Christians and the Jews, it was mentioned: “Aftera month had passed on him assuming the rule, he called all over Cairo that the Christians shall raise the ends of their turbans and tighten their sashes (belts on their waists), and the Jews shall put a yellow rag in their turbans.” Asad al-Din served as a minister for two months, then died. It is said that while he was on the verge of death, he recommended the ministry to Salah al-Din. Indeed, Salah al-Din took over the ministry and was nicknamed Al-Malek Al-Nasser. Many disputes erupted, and a great fight broke out between Mo’taman Al-KhilafaGohar, the servant of the Caliph, supported bythe soldiers and the Sudanese, and on the other side Assad al-Din and Salah al-Din. As a ruler, Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi listened to an advice of the judge, recommending not employing the Christians as overseersof the state funds or as supervisors, so he excluded them. Afterwards, Al-Adid passed away, his death marked the end of the Fatimid rule over Egypt, their state collapsed at the age of two hundred. Salah al-Din al-Ayyubiassumed the rule of the country (which will be discussed in detail later).
At the beginning of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi’s rule, the Christians suffered greatly from his orders that commanded the following: “Wood crosses that had been hanged on high domes of every church all over Egypt shall be removed, any church that had been seen with a white interface shall be covered with mud. Bells shall not be rung all over Egypt, the Christians shall not roam around with olive tree branches (palm trees as on Palm Sunday) in a city or village as they had been accustomed to beforehand.” Christians were subjected to many insults and a number of their churches were demolished. Pope MorcosIbnZaraa countered all these hardships with fervent prayers until the Sultan’s heart changed towards them, and… Stories about beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center