Last article tackled the nomination of Saint Pope Kyrillos VI -still Archpriest Mina the Hermit then- for the patriarchate beyond his knowledge, as he realized how revered such critical responsibility is, deeming himself unworthy. Yet, the divine will saw the good shepherd in him, worthy to be the shepherd of shepherds; so, he was ordained a patriarch on 10/5/1959, under the name he chose “Kyrillos”.
Today, Egypt’s Copts celebrate the departure of the Triple Beatified Pope Shenouda III (the 117th patriarch of the See of Saint Mark). Today, we are tackling the encounter of Saint Pope Kyrillos VI and his Saint Mark’s seat successor Pope Shenouda III.
The young man Nazir Gayed (Pope Shenouda) preferred to leave the world and head for the monastic life which had conquered his mind and heart, despite the great life success he had achieved! He said, “My inclination towards abstinence of the world pleasures and towards monasticism was strong. I was not an introvert though, rather, I had an extremely successful social life. Yet the motive lying deep in my heart was much stronger than all what was offered to me.” He materialized his feelings in his poem “Stranger”:
I left the world´s charms, and did not accept its calling.
I began preparing for travel, far from its pleasures.
An empty heart I wish not, to fill with any of its inspirations.
A fair hearing I listen not, to the noise of its dwellers.
I roam here alone, happy in its valleys.
With harps and psalms, and hymns I sing.
And holy hours, contemplating about my Creator.
I walk around like a ghost, who swims to eyeball the seer.
As a stranger I lived in this world, a guest like my fathers.
Nazir Gayed maintained love for all, working to please everyone until the time for setting off to the wilderness would come, he said: “I have decided to live among people, to please them as long as I am here among them. When I am alone to myself, I maintain retreat and live for my Lord, till He sets me off from the world to the monastic life.” On 18/7/1954, Nazir Gayed joined monasticism and became Monk Antonios Al-Soriany, in 1956, he launched his solitary life in a cave 5.3 kilometers away from the monastery.
When Saint Pope Kyrillos VI assumed papacy, he appointed Monk Antonios Al-Soriany as his secretary in June 1959, yet he sooner longed for the solitary life, so he returned to Al-Sorian monastery in September of the same year, then in 1960 he moved to another cave 12 kilometers away from the monastery.
Then the moment came when Saint Pope Kyrillos VI decided to ordain Monk Antonios Al-Soriany a general bishop on 30/9/1962, to be the first General Bishop of Education, Religious Institutes and Christian Education, under the name Bishop Shenouda. Anba Theophilus, the Abbot of Al-Sorian Monastery took Monk Antonios to meet Saint Pope Kyrillos VI for discussing an important issue concerning a visit of a German mission for the monastery. During this meeting, Pope Kyrillos expressed his desire to appoint Monk Antonios to be in charge of the Clerical College and Sunday School, yet he apologized. Pope Kyrillos tried to convince the solitary monk to accept the bishopric, yet he insisted on rejecting. When Monk Antonios approached the pope, kneeling before him to obtain his blessing before leaving, the pope laid the cross on his head, pressing his head lest he should flee, saying: “Shenouda: a bishop of education and Sunday schools”! Before containing the surprise, he was prevented by Pope Kyrillos to leave the patriarchate till the ordination official rituals are held! Pope Shenouda says: “In fact, it was done via a small trick, I used to love the life of solitude and contemplation, far from these official positions. However, I was asked to meet Pope Kyrillos VI himself for an important matter, and I could not object meeting him. During the meeting, he discussed it with me, and then the matter was settled! While I was going out, he placed his hands on my shoulder, and said: so and so… and there was no void parish at that time; I was the first to be ordained a general bishop in this generation, and he told me: You no longer have the right to leave this place. And I found myself in a situation I couldn’t escape! At that time, I remembered a phrase said by Prophet Jeremiah: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” I had to submit to the fait accompli. Then the official ritual church ceremonies were held, and I was ordained a bishop, and that was in September 1962.” And … Stories in beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center