POPE KYRILLOS VI
Coptic Date: 30 Meshir
StoryOn March 9 (Amshir 30), the remembrance of the departure of the Great Pope (Papa Ava) Kyrillos (Cyril) VI, the 116th successor of St. Mark the Evangelist. He was pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. Pope Kyrillos was a holy man who through full dedication to the life of prayer and fasting possessed many higher gifts which included performing wonders and miracles, the gift of knowledge, and an unusual ability to lead by example, which was missing for generations before his ascending to the throne of St. Mark. He sets on the chair of St. Mark for twelve years (1959-1971). He had the honor and showed the wisdom needed to guide the Coptic Church through the difficult times of the 1960's when the government of then Gamal Abdul-Nasser was nationalizing business, real estate, and land including those willed to the churches and monasteries. He was highly regarded by the people of Egypt from all walks of life Christian and non-Christian alike.
Pope Kyrillos VI was born August 2, 1902 as Azer Ata, the son of a church deacon from a middle class family. After completing high school, Azer went to work for a shipping company in Alexandria. Much against his family's wishes, he resigned his job with the intention of becoming a monk and entered the monastery of Baramous (named after Sts. Maximus and Domadius) in the Western Desert of Egypt in an area called Shiheet (the prairie of the heart's scale). On the 25th of February, 1928, he was consecrated monk. He was given the monastic name "Mina" after St. Mina’s the wonder-worker, his patron saint. Three years later he was ordained a priest, July 18, 1931.
Fr. Mina attended the Helwan Theological College and was rated one of the top students. Later, he retired to a cave two miles away from the monastery to live a life of solitude. That is how he came to be known as "Abouna Mina Al-mota-Wahed" (Fr. Mena the Solitaire). In 1944 he was nominated to become the abbot of the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor and played a vital role in building a centre for the monastery in El Zawra, renovating the ancient churches of the monastery and building new monk cells.
When the monastery of St. Samuel was restored, he left that area and moved to a deserted windmill south of Cairo (the windmill belonged to the Army, and long after, it was revealed that he paid a nominal rent for it when he found out that it belonged to the Army). This is near the historic region of "Masr Al-Kadema" (Old Cairo). He restored the place and built a small residence and a church on the name of St. Mina, his patron saint. He found himself surrounded with college students, many of them were from outside Cairo, so he started a dormitory for students who need this service. This informal program produced the first church affiliated dorm in modern times in Egypt, and produced countless church leaders, some of whom are our present bishops, priests, and Laity leaders. The likes of His Holiness Pope Shenouda (his successor), the late bishop Samuel, .. etc.
After the abduction of his predecessor, the late pope Youssab II by militant Copts, the church was in great turmoil which did not last long, because it was the will of God the pope Youssab departed shortly thereafter.
In April, 1959, Fr. Mina Al-Mota-Wahed was elected pope and patriarch through the unique process used in the Coptic Church to elect a pope. Candidates for the honorable position are nominated, three or four of the nominees are elected by the Holy Synod as most qualified. The final selection is left to the will of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by placing the names on the altar during the appointed day of final selection. A young deacon is then asked to draw a name which is then the one chosen by God from among the qualified candidates for this high calling.
In May, 1959, Fr. Mina became pope and patriarch by the laying of the hands of all the bishops of the Coptic Church at the time, he was called pope Kyrillos VI (That means that five popes before him were called Kyrillos. The first pope Kyrillos, is Cyril of Alexandria the pillar of faith).
In June 1968 (Pashons–Paoni 1684), Pope Kyrillos received the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Apostle, which had been taken from Alexandria to Venice over eleven centuries earlier. The relics were interred beneath the newly completed Cathedral of Saint Mark in Cairo, which was built under pope Kyrillos and was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by President Nasser, Emperor Haile Selassie, and delegates from most other churches.
During his tenure as patriarch, many were attracted to monastic life and to the priesthood by his good example and sincere lifestyle. No wonder many joined the priesthood from the ranks of college graduates in all fields which was previously not considered the thing to do! Many books have been written about his life, wonders and miracles. The author recommends the publications of Pope Kyrillos the VI Society which are published originally in Arabic and translated to many languages (English, French, German, .. etc.). Also, during his papacy marked the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt (starting on 2 April 1968/24 [Paremhat 1684]).
In his last days, he was gravely ill with phlebitis (blood clot in the leg). They hooked a speaker from the great Cathedral to his bedroom at his request because he could not bear not being able to perform liturgy (which he performed almost daily during his life of priesthood). One day the head mother of one of the convents (monasteries for nuns) wanted to speak to him on the phone, but the staff wouldn't give out his private number. Pope Kyrillos appeared to her in a vision, gave her the number and comforted her. She did not call, but later on she was blessed by seeing him and was rendered speechless when pope Kyrillos asked her the reason she did not call on his private line. Our Father Papa Ava (the Great Pope) Kyrillos departed on March 9, 1971. Take care of my burial. Initially, they buried him under the Altar in the Great Cathedral in Cairo. But when his successor, the Great Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III read his will, he had to follow his wishes and move his holy body to the desert south west of Alexandria, to the Monastery of St. Mina which was renovated and immensely expanded by Pope Kyrillos to honor his good friend, patron saint, St. Mina of Marriot. That is where his body is buried now. May his intercessions be with us. Glory be to God forever. Amen.