THE PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA DOWN THE CENTURIES
There can be no doubt that even at the time when it was first built — in 332/331 BC, by the famous architects Deinocrates of Rhodes and Cleomenes of Naucratis, on the inspiration of Alexander the Great himself — Alexandria was a city of unique importance in the then known world, a place of great prestige in intellectual, economic, cultural, commercial and military life. Because of its geographical position, the city of Alexandria also became a city which linked ancient Egyptian civilization with that of Greece and Rome and, then with that of the Jews, to emerge as, a renowned capital which was a place of meeting and cross-influence among the main spiritual and intellectual trends of the time. The presence of the various schools of philosophy, which developed and cultured the theories of Aristotle and Plato, helped to further elevate its prestige and splendor, making it a pole to which men flocked from all directions.
Its famous libraries and the other important centers of letters and the arts such as its -university, were forerunners which were to have positive effects when Christianity subsequently made its appearance. All these features, and the cultures of Europe, Asia and Africa, amalgamated to create a new spiritual and intellectual trend which made the city something of a cosmopolitan meeting-point for various different civilizations.
Christianity made its way to Alexandria at a very early date, via the Jews of the Diaspora, who had long had a flourishing community in the area. It was only natural that the Jews should come under the influence of Greek culture, also vigorous and dynamic in the city at the same time. Something of this can be seen in the account in Acts (VII, 8-10) of the preaching of Stephen: "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke. " There can be little doubt that the preaching of the new religion had a positive effect on many of the Jews, who later joined the Church and espoused its beliefs. We should have no reservations about accepting the view that Christianity was introduced into the great city of Alexandria and its vicinity by the Jews, especially if we bear another extract from Acts in mind: "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue; whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much, which had believed through grace. For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing them by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ"(XVIII, 24-28).
However, it is St Mark who is regarded both by tradition and in the light of various written, sources as the pioneer and herald of the Church in Egypt and indeed, throughout the continent of Africa. It is said that Mark came of a Jewish family from, Cyrenaica, being the son of Aristobulus, brother-of the Apostle Barnabas. When the, family of Aristobulus fell upon hard times, it was forced to leave Cyrene and emigrate to the land of Israel. Mark's mission to Egypt was a peaceful one: he arrived there — in about. 43 AD not as a conqueror, but bearing the Gospel of Christ. His move to Egypt can be seen as the founding and inauguration of the Patriarchate of Alexandria: one of the reasons why the institution occupies such a prominent position in the family of the Orthodox Churches.
With faith and with the salvation of souls always as his criterion, Mark entered Alexandria by the Moon Gate next to the customs house, precisely at the spot where the first church — the first place of worship of the Holy Trinity — was later built. Mark's purpose on his first visit, which was made difficult by the various foreign trends then predominant among the population — of Alexandria, was to establish and inaugurate the new religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Here, on his first visit, he met the shoemaker Animus, who enthusiastically received Mark's message and followed him, later becoming his successor. 'That is' why St. Mark is seen today as the Apostle not only of Egypt, but of all Africa.
Anninus, Mark's continuator and second Bishop of Alexandria, "a man pleasing to God and admired by all" (62-81), was able to keep up the work begun by Mark and to produce important spiritual achievements in establishing the Christian Word. On his second visit to Alexandria, Mark met a martyr's death for his faith in Christ; Nicephorus of Constantinople refers to him in his Chronicle, as "the first martyr of our Lord, Jesus Christ in Alexandria". Various accounts tell us that St Mark preached the Gospel in the year 39 or 43.
Once the foundations of the faith had been laid correctly by Mark, there was no doubt that the Gospel would find a positive response among the Jews, and also among the Greeks. The local population of Egypt, on the other hand, does not seem to have been very enthusiastic about the new message that had just arrived in the land of the Pharaohs, or to have played a particularly significant role in the administration and organization of the first Christian community in Egypt.
There is no evidence as to whether Egyptians occupied an important position in the first Christian community of Alexandria, given that Egyptian names do not begin to appear in the lists of bishops until the late second century. The fact of the matter is, however, that even in its very first years the Church of Alexandria expanded its activities to cover not only Egypt, Libya and the cities of the Cyrenaic Pentapolis but also the sub-Saharan countries of Africa. (It should be noted at this point that the most senior Metropolitan Bishop of the Church of Alexandria was the Bishop of Libya, who was styled 'Most Honorable Exarch of All Africa'.) Nor should we omit to mention that even in the very early days Christianity spread to Yemen, Ethiopia and Nubia thanks to the missionary activities of the Church of Alexandria. Of particular importance was the work done by St. Pantaenus in Ethiopia, of whom Eusebius tells us: "they say that with the most fervent disposition he showed readiness as to the divine word, and proved himself a herald of the Gospel according to Christ to the nations to the east, being sent as far as the land of India, for there were moreover at that time many preachers of the word, ready to add their divine zeal in imitating the Apostles for the increase and building up of the divine word ... ".
Little evidence has survived of spiritual and intellectual life in Alexandria during the first half of the second century AD. However, we know more about the situation towards the end of that century, when the greater part of the Greeks of Alexandria had already embraced Christianity and the new religion had gained supporters not only in the city itself, but also\outside it, in the surrounding countryside. This would seem to indicate that the Greeks of the time were not fanatical adherents either of the ancient Greek or of the ancient Egyptian culture, thus making them more receptive to the new religion.
In this way, Alexandria, which was already, a place where ideas came and went and a renowned center for the arts and letters, soon acquired a further privilege: that of becoming the home of Christianity. From this point on, a spirit of love and peace among the civilizations was cultivated, and a new civilization was grafted on to the two older cultures, enhancing them to a degree that could hardly have been imagined. In parallel, however, it was not long before the first heretical trends appeared in the Church of Alexandria. These included Gnosticism, whose adherents attempted to reconcile the ancient Greek theories with the spirit and deeds, of the Christian religion. Needless to say, this undertaking was a perversion of Christian truth. The chief proponent of these ideas was Basilides, whose efforts Isidore, "his authentic son and disciple", studied and wished to continue. Both these men strove to disseminate "pseudonymous gnosis" in treatises of their own. The most genuine representative of the new theory however, was Valentius, a laborer and preacher born in Alexandria who later moved to Rome and was thus responsible for the division of Gnosticism into two schools, those of the East and the West. The movement soon picked up strength and caused serious problems, especially for the life of the Church of Christ in Alexandria, where even women, were enlisted in the task of spreading its teachings.
The Church now had to devise ways of dealing with the heretical efforts of the Gnostics, who were proving to be a serious internal obstacle for the development and consolidation of Christianity. The center of this campaign of resistance took shape with the founding of the Catechetical School, established and superbly directed by Pantaenus. Pantaenus was of Sicilian origin, and in earlier times had been an adherent of the Stoic school of philosophy. He then embraced Christianity, studying the new religion, being catechetised, and ultimately achieving certainty as to its correctness. He became an enthusiastic supporter of Christianity and a zealous missionary who worked for its dissemination.
He continued to work with success down to about 200 AD. Eusebius, in, his ecclesiastical history, gives a good picture of the achievements of Pantaenus: "A leader at that time of the studies of the faithful there was a man most renowned for his culture; his name was Pantaenus.. Out of ancient practice, a school for the words of God was set up among them, which has survived down to our time and which we have heard from tradition was made up of those who were strong, in reasoning and in their concern for the divine; and it is a well-known fact that eloquence flourished among them then, and that this sprang from the philosophical training of the Stoics. Pantaenus, in addition to his many achievements, ending his, days in Alexandria, was in charge of the school, through his living voice and his writings interpreting the treasures of the divine teachings".
Under the guidance of Pantaenus and his successors, the School proved to be a godsend in dealing with all the heretical movements which sprang up during the early days of the Church of-Alexandria. For a while Pantaenus' assistants included Clement, who became famous for his profound learning and the systematic way in which he directed the School. When Clement was forced to resign during the persecution of Septimius (203), he was succeeded as director by a man whose youth, belied his tremendous learning: Origen. Origen gave the work of the School fresh impetus and inaugurated a period in which it enjoyed great prestige, thanks to his success in putting it on more systematic and lasting foundations. The School became known outside the frontiers of Egypt itself, and was attended not only by Christians but also by heretics and even pagans. The nature of the system applied in the School led to the creation of a theological and philosophical current involving the spirit of a strongly allegorical interpretation of Scripture. In their writings, the teachers of the School went still further, and a mystical tendency came to prevail. Origen was succeeded by Heracles (231-247), later Bishop of Alexandria, and among the names of other distinguished teachers of the Catechetical School of Alexandria were those of Dionysius, Theognostus, Pierius, Peter, Didymus the Blind and Rhodon.
During the first two centuries of the Christian era, Alexandria was spared many of the fearful persecutions experienced by other churches in the Roman Empire. Septimius Severus visited Alexandria in 202 and issued a special edict forbidding conversion to Judaism and, subsequently, to Christianity as a result precisely, of the active and effective work being carried out by the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Many leading, figures in the society of Alexandria suffered terribly, including Origen's father Leonidas, who was martyred for his Christian beliefs. Origen himself succoured the persecuted Christians, paying regular visits to the victims of the cruel policy of the Roman emperors. Many Christians were, put to death and the city of Alexandria experienced a time of horror and fear. Dionysius of Alexandria tells us that "no street, or avenue, or alley was passable for us, either by night or by day, with everyone constantly and everywhere clamouring" The persecution under Decius (249-251) was still more terrible, extending beyond Alexandria itself to the whole of Egypt. It was at this time that Origen, the great teacher and sage, met a martyr's death in prison at Tyre.
Persecution continued during the reign of Valerian (253-260). At this period, the Great City of Alexandria lost much of its glory and forfeited the admiration due to centres of the arts and letters. Fear and depopulation reigned everywhere, and the numerous Christian population, threatened with persecution and banishment, drifted away from Alexandria and, indeed, from the whole of Egypt. Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History gives us a very vivid picture of what took place during these persecutions, and especially in the reign of Septimius Severus. According to the account of Eusebius, "As Severus unleashed a persecution against the churches, glorious was the witness borne — to devotion by the athletes of the spirit in every place, and this was abundant in Alexandria, the athletes of God, being sent there as to a huge stadium from Egypt and the whole Thebaid, through their most patient endurance of a variety of tortures and manners of death put on crowns given by God ... Severus entered the tenth year of his reign and Laetus was in command of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt; Demetrius, afier Julian, took up afresh the bishopric of the Christian communities. And the fire of persecution was great kindled and tens of thousands were crowned by their sufferings ... ".
Another of the persecutors of the Christian population of Egypt was Diocletian. The martyrs who gave their lives during his reign include Didymus and, Theodora, Timothy and Maura, Catherina and Menas, Bishop Phileas, and many more. Maximinus, Diocletian's successor, proved to be just, as ruthless an opponent of Christianity as his predecessor had been issuing an edict ordering the Christians to sacrifice to his gods. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, met a martyr's death by beheading in his time. Before his execution, Peter is said to have sought permission to visit the tomb of St Mark, at Bucolioea and, indeed, he was later interred there himself. With Peter were martyred the presbyters Faustus, Dios and Ammanius and the Bishops, Hesychius, Pachomius and Theodore. The names of Sts. Peter and Cyrus are also associated with these events. St. Peter of Alexandria was martyred on 25 November 311.
Throughout these successive persecutions, the Church of Alexandria strove to support the faithful and succour them in their sufferings. All the way through the first centuries of the life of the Church of Alexandria, persecution and heresy were twin menaces, but the Church rose to the occasion and never lost its courage. The tombs of the martyrs and heroes were the sources of the glory and prestige of, the Church of the Alexandrines. Worship helped the faithful and enhanced their devotion in the magnificent churches which, in the meantime, had begun to be constructed. During the first three centuries the Church of Alexandria used the same litugical forms as these employed by the other churches but little by it developed its own liturgical form and the typikon of St Mark came to prevail. Under the typikon of the Church of Alexandria, it became customary to bless the waters of the River Nile after Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers prior to Pentecost.
During this period Egyptians and Greeks found it impossible to live together in harmony. Both races were subject to terrible persecution, and survived, but the community of Greek Christians bore the brunt of the persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the enemies of Christianity. For all the efforts made by the Greeks to assimilate the Egyptians, this did not prove possible, and an internal rift developed. At this period, when the Catechetical School of Alexandria was at the height of its fame and when the first great Fathers and Teacher's of the Catholic Church of Alexandria were making their appearance naturally enough, since this was the greatest centre of Christianity, the indigenous population of Egypt was evolving features of its own. It has to be accepted that, the Egyptians lived separately from the Greeks of Egypt, creating a community of their own with a distinctive atmosphere and different ideas; little by little, this came to be called the Coptic Church, and its adherents Copts. From this point on, everything originating among the Egyptian population bears the stamp of the Coptic culture, and a separate Christian community, with its own liturgical typikon, its own art and Coptic as its language came into being.
In the sphere of administration, the Church of Alexandria. followed a course of its own dictated by the political system of the time. In other words, the Church was administered in a more, centralised manner than was common elsewhere. There were no metropolitan bishoprics, the bishops being subject to the primacy of the Metropolitan Bishop or Archbishop of Alexandria, whose duty it was to ordain all the bishops of Egypt, without exception, and all those of the other provinces which fell within his jurisdiction. The surviving evidence suggests that the Church of Alexandria had one hundred bishoprics in the fourth century divided into ten provinces. The postscript to this study gives a detailed , description of the episcopal and metropolitan divisions of the Throne of Alexandria and of the countries within its mandate.
All the episcopal and metropolitan bishoprics were supervised and regulated by the shepherd and master entitled the Pope of Alexandria. The centralising and monarchic system of the Church of Alexandria was such that the Pope enjoyed "unlimited powers comparable to those of Caesar in politics" an echo of the pagan "chief priest of Alexandria and all Egypt" as Adolf Harnack quite correctly points out. According to a canon adopted by the First Ecumenical Council, the Bishop of Alexandria was ranked second after the Bishop of Rome. Within his own lands, all his bishops were regarded merely as his commissioners and all the rights of a metropolitan bishop were concentrated in his hands. The bishops under the primacy of Alexandria were not even entitled to resolve ecclesiastical matters in their areas of jurisdiction: only the Pope of Alexandria was recognised as having the right to settle such problems.
The first Pope of Alexandria is taken to have been Heracles (for a 1ist of all the Bishops, Archibishops and Popes of Alexandria whose names have come down to us, see the Appendix at the end of this file). The title of Pope, however, was used by the Bishops of Alexandria right from the inception of the Church of Alexandria. As early as the fourth century, the Bishop of Alexandria also bore titles such as "Shepherd and Lord", "Most Blessed, Father", "Most Blessed Pope" (Athanasius), "Father of Fathers", "Father of Fathers and Chief Priests", "Christ's Locum Tenens", and "Judge of the World". In this way, the Archbishop of Alexandria assumed unlimited powers and his authority was absolute. In the third century, the Church of Alexandria became Mother Church of all the churches in Egypt and Africa, with its Bishop as their Great Shepherd. Canon VI of the First Ecumenical Council was quite explicit about this: "Let tke ancient customs be kept up in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis, so that the Bishop of Alexandria 'has power over all these, since it is customary in the case of the Bishop in Rome, and likewise at Antioch and in the other provinces for the privileges to be preserved by the churches."
Among the most important milestones in the history of the Church of Alexandria was the appearance of monasticism in Egypt. As far back as the time of the Decian persecution, St. Paul of Thebes had abandoned all things worldly and had settled in the desert, thus inaugurating a new way of life and allowing us to see him as the herald of the monastic ideal. The Nitrian Desert became the centre of monasticism in Egypt. It was there that Paul took as his disciple Antony, who later emerged as one of the most important figures in the monastic life and has been ca1led the father of monasticism. Many other Christians heard of Antony and followed his example, l.iving as he did and establishing a model for the monastic life. These disciples of Antony included one called Ammon or Amoun. Little by little, monasticism spread to other parts of Egypt, such as the Desert of Kellia and Skete. All the monks lived under the instructions of Antony the Great, not in coenobitic foundations but each one alone, striving to find his own way to spiritual perfection. In the desert places of their spiritual exercise, the monks studied not only the Scriptures but also the writings of the great Teachers and Fathers of Alexandria. Of course, the founding of the Egyptian type of monasticism is attributed to St. Pachomius, who died in 346 AD. Macarius the Great, too, was among those responsible for organising monastic life in Egypt. Egypt was the place where monasticism was first set on its true foundations, spreading from there to Sinai, Palestine, Syria and many countries of the East and West.
The history of the Church of Alexandria can be divided into the following periods: the first three centuries (that is, from its foundation by St. Mark the Evangelist to the First Ecumenical Council in 325); from the First Ecumenical Council of 325 to the Arab conquest of Egypt in 642; from the Arab Conquest of Egypt to the schism of 867; from the schism of 867 to 1517 (when Egypt came under the sway of the Ottoman Turks); from the Turkish conquest to the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke in 1821; from 1821 to the present day.
As we have already seen, the establishment of the Catechetical School of Alexandria did much to help in dealing with the various heresies. As a result, the Church of Alexandria was able to concentrate its powers on improving its level of organisation and preparation for handling serious — problems connected with the faith itself. At this time - after the persecutions were over — Bishop Peter of Alexandria was moderate in his measures against the 'Lapsed' (i.e., those who had renounced Christianity during the persecution of Diocletian and now wished to return to the Church). Melitius Bishop of Lycopolis, disagreed with Peter's approach, calling for the lapsed to display greater repentance. At the time when Peter was forced to leave Egypt, Melitius ordained clergy of his own and thus created a schism in the Church of Alexandria. His adherents (Melitius himself had been excommunicated and exiled by Peter) then went over to the Arian heresy: Arius was a very learned deacon in the Church of Alexandria, and had made a great name for himself as an orator.
However, misled by the influence of Platonic philosophy, he lapsed into heresy, alleging that the Son is inferior to the Father. Arius and his followers caused a major problem for the Church of Alexandria, and in 318 Bishop Alexander was compelled summon a Council which excommunicated Arius and all his followers. The issue created a major upheaval in the Church of Alexandria, and the whole matter was referred for settlement to the First Ecumenical Council, which met at Nicaea in 325. Arius, his followers and his teachings were all condemned by the Council, but the Arians, allying themselves with other schismatics such as the Melitians, continued to struggle against Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. In 335, indeed, Athanasius was condemned by the Council of Tyre and Arius returned to his post in Alexandria. The regrettable events which followed had the effect of disturbing the inner peace of the Church of Alexandria. The Patriarchs of Alexandria in the years to come often had to deal with problems and upheavals. of a similar nature, some of them caused by the Byzantine Emperors themselves and others by learned bishops, deacons and monks of the Church of Egypt.
Even so, the greatest weakness of the Church of Alexaridria was the rift that had developed between the Egyptian Christians and the Orthodox Greeks. The decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council caused grave displeasure among the Copts of Egypt, who remained loyal to the Monophysite theories of Dioscurus. As a result, the Church of Alexandria lost most of its members when the Egyptians founded a church of their own, called the Coptic Church, with its own separate system of administration.
Despite this rift, the Church of Alexandria kept much of its prestige and splendour, with its magnificent churches, its monasteries, its schools and the beauty of its liturgical forms.
The Arab conquest of Egypt in 642 undoubtedly had a negative effect on the internal workings of the Church of Alexandria. Byzantine sovereignty over Egypt now came to an end, and that meant that the Church was in the hands of foreign conquerors who, moreover, were not even Christians. Sad to say, the disputes, between Greek and Egyptian Christians, which, had continued down the centuries, helped to ensure that the Arabs had little difficulty in capturing Alexandria. Relations between the two peoples had come to be inimical. Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria at the time of the conquest, tried on various pretexts to make peace with the Arab conquerors — to such an extent that he extent that he was misunderstood by tte Byzantine Emperor and severely reprimanded. In view of the difficult position in which he found himself, Cyrus also strove to bridge the gap between the Greeks and the Egyptian Christians. The Arab invasion was accompanied by much devastation and historic churches, foundations and, of course, the Library of Alexandria were burned to the ground.
The Byzantines tried in vain to recapture Egypt, but all their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful despite the fact that for a short while, in 645, Byzantine troops re-occupied Alexandria. The Orthodox Greeks found it difficult to accept the Arabs as their overlords; the Copts, on their other hand, looked with some optimism to their new masters, in the hope that they would bring the Orthodox presence in Egypt to an end. The Church of Alexandria went through a very difficult period, and for 75 whole, years the throne was vacant while various locum tenents administered the Church. Before long, all the Christians of Egypt became acquainted with the ferocity of their new overlords. Under the pact of Omar, the conquerors deemed the Christians to be a people of lower standing who lived as aliens in their own country. They were obliged to pay crushing taxes and were subjected to humiliations of all kinds. The Greeks, as a minority among the Christians, were of course forced to undergo many sufferings. The Arab conquerors were filled with a terrible hate of the Greek Orthodox as a result of the defeats their armies had suffered in Asia at the hands of the Byzantines. In 704, a wave of persecution of the Christians of Egypt and of the Greeks in particular broke out. Churches and other religious buildings were looted, and the Christians were forced to flee the country: to such a point, indeed, that there was difficulty in finding senior clergymen to staff the Patriarchate. Little by little the Patriarchate of Alexandria began to lose its strength. A degree of change came about in the time of the Byzantine Emperor Leo (717-741): when Patriarch (Cosmas was elected to the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria (in 727), Leo sent him to the Caliph Hisham with rich gifts and a plea that the living conditions of the Christians should be improved and the churches confiscated from them by the Arabs and even by the Copts should be returned.
When Cosmas (727-787) arrived in Alexandria to take up his post, he found himself faced with a terrible situation which he had difficulty in believing. The Orthodox community had been subjected to such persecution that it was left with only one church. Cosmas, though not a man renowned for his breadth of learning, did his utmost to reorganize the Patriarchate of Alexandria. He managed to achieve a great deal for the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria, including the return to the Patriarchate of many of the churches which the Copts had seized. His successors, too, devoted much effort to the cause of peace in the Church of St Mark, and as a result it regained some of its former prestige. The Patriarchs of Alexandria played a significant role in all the questions of interest to the Church at any time, sending representatives to all the local and ecumenical councils.
Alexandria was never far from the thoughts of the Byzantine Emperors. Unfortunately, this tended to have an adverse effect on the lives of the Christians of Egypt. Byzantine military successes in the area inevitably led to the punishment by the Arabs or their Christian subjects in Egypt. There were countless instances in which the Caliphs of Egypt maltreated the Orthodox Christians of the country because the Byzan tines had been successful on one battlefield or another. The Christians were seen as a kind of Byzantine fifth column, and torture, humiliations, arson, taxation and persecution of the clergy were only some of the reprisals meted out to them. Many of the Patriarchs of Alexandria spoke excellent Arabic, and this was often a great help in resolving the serious problems facing the Throne of Alexandria. Considerations of space prevent us from covering here all the names and activities of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, especially. those of the period in question. Emperor Basil II ('the Bulgar-Slayer') and, the Ecumenical Patriarch Sergius. Theophilus mediation in settling the dispute between the two men was so successful that after this time the Patriarch was awarded the title of 'Judge of the World'.
The entire period of 'Arab rule could be described as one prolonged torment for Christians of Egypt. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Patriarchate of Alexandria was more than once in danger of complete extinction as a result of the cruel measures taken by the rulers of Egypt. Given these persecutions, it is no surprise to find frequent references to monks being driven out of their monasteries, of the monasteries themselves being closed, and of the Patriarch having to move elsewhere in search of greater security. Of course, the center of the Patriarchate remained for centuries the Holy Monastery of St. Sambas. When the Capital of the country was moved to Cairo, the seat of the Patriarchate shifted there too, for a while, perhaps so that the Popes would be safer. During the, period of Arab rule, the Monastery of St Catherine on Sinai was governed by the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In many cases, the Patriarchs of Alexandria were permanently resident in Constantinople, and it was not unknown for the election of the Patriarch to take place there. At this time, the number of Christian Orthodox believers was approximately 300,000, but by the end of Arab rule it had declined to a mere 100,000. Suffering and unhappiness were the constant lot of the Christians. In its hospitals, the Patriarchate of Alexandria set up infirmaries to care for the poor and sick. After the time of St John the Merciful (sixth century), many the Patriarchs were physicians who helped the unprotected Christians of Egypt in their hardships. Among the Patriarchs of Alexandria who practiced medicine, we know of Cosmos I, Polities, Hutchies, Cyril II and Nicholas II. Also of importance was the contribution made by the Patriarchate of` Alexandria to the founding of institutions of education, and in particular to the Monasteries of St. Sambas and St. George.
When Egypt was taken by the Turks in 1517, a new era dawned for the Christians. Persecution ceased. The Patriarch of the day, Ioakeim (1487-1567), received from Sultan Selim I a firman safeguarding all the patriarchal privileges and guaranteeing that the Patriarchate. of Alexandria would be allowed to perform its duties in peace. Although Ioakeim was not a man of wide learning, he succeeded in raising the status of the Patriarchate, extracting it from the obscurity to which Arab mis-management had consigned it, creating better conditions, and making the most of what the Patriarchate could contribute to solving the problems it shared with the other churches of the Eastern Mediterranean that is, the Patriarchates of Jerusalem. and Antioch. The fall of Constantinople created, serious economic problems for all the Patriarchal Thrones of the East, which had relied on the financial support of Byzantium. The Patriarch of Alexandria, thanks to the privileges he had been granted was now free to discharge his administrative duties without interference or impediment from the civil authorities. Where the internal affairs of the Patriarchate were concerned, the Patriarch was responsible not only for matters connected with the bishops and the monks but also for marriages, divorces, inheritances, the dedication of churches, public collections, and the construction and repairing of churches. He was free to move from place to place to visit his flock, and he civil authorities did not have the right to obstruct him.
At about this time, a serious problem arose — over the Sinai Monastery and occupied a central position in Ioakeim's concerns; he had been a monk there himself in his youth, and loved the place so much that even as Patriarch he spent long periods in its tranquility. The bond between Ioakeim and the Monastery was so strong that he built a chapel there in 1529, dedicating it to St Michael. At that time, the Monastery fell within the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, but the Patriarch of Jerusalem had also put forward a claim to have rights over it. In the end, loakeim gave way and the Monastery was transferred to the jurisdiction of Jerusalem.
The Patriarchate or Alexandria was in such dire financial straits at this time that the Patriarch turned to Russia for assistance. Neither Ioakeim nor his successors had any alternative other than to look to the Tsars of Russia for aid. The Tsars and the Patriarchs of Moscow always responded positively to the pleas of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. In these supplications, the Patriarchs painted a vivid picture of the poverty afflicting the Patriarchate. With Russian help, churches and monasteries were restored and much was done to embellish the interiors of churches in Alexandria and Cairo. The wealth of treasures, the icons and the holy vessels kept in the Patriarchate of Alexandria today and adorning its churches are testimony to the extent of the assistance which the Russians rendered to the Church of St. Mark.
Patriarch Ioakeim intervened effectively in the case of Maxim the Greek, recently canonised, who had been imprisoned in Russia. Ioakeim had the courage to write to Tsar Ivan the Terrible and to plead for Maxim's release.. His letter included the following extract: "For that reason, we pray Your Majesty to release Maxim, monk of Mt. Athos, on receiving this letter, and to allow him to go wherever he may please, and in particular to Mt Athos, where he was tonsured".
Meletios Pegas of Crete (1590-1601) was among the most notable and outstanding Patriarchs of Alexandria during this period. Meletios had received his education in the schools of Venice and Padua, then among the best known in Europe. A scholar with a complete command of Greek, Latin and Italian, he left thousands of letters and many important theological works. Another of his notable works was his participation in the Local Council of Constantinople which ratified the formation of the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1593.
The fact that Meletios attended this Council put an end to a difficult situation and avoided an upheaval in the Church. Yet Meletios did important work in other spheres. The Jesuits who propagadised in favour of the Latin faith succeeded in deceiving the Coptic Patriarch Gavriil (1585-1602) to such an extent that he even agreed to acknowledge the primacy of the Pope. One of the Chorepiscopi of the Coptic Church followed Gavriil's example, but Meletios found an apt way of persuading the Copts to change their mind and break off all contact with the Roman Catholic Church, which they now refused to recognize. Meletios also worked hard, though ultimately unsuccessfully, to bring about a rapprochement between the Copts and the Orthodox community.
In 1596, on the death of Patriarch Gavriil of Constantinople, Meletios was appointed locum tenens of the Ecumenical Throne, a post he held for two years. During that period he was resident in Constantinople. Among his close associates and friends was the great Cyril Lucaris whom Meletios planned should be his successor. He assigned Lucaris a very difficult mission that of making his way to Poland and combating the Uniat Church, which had prevailed there. Although Lucaris' mission ultimately yielded few positive results, he did much, to help the Orthodox Christians, boosting their morale and guiding them along the right path.
Meletios was indeed succeded by Cyril Lucaris (1601-1620), a personality who has gone down in history as a Great Martyr and a pioneering prelate. Like his patron Meletios, Cyril, too, had studied at the great uriiversities of the West. Apart from his profound theological wisdom, Cyril also proved, to be an excellent administrator. In his time, the Patriarchate of Alexandria regained much of its glory and succeeded in resolving many of the problems that had concerned the Throne down to that time.
Cyril was particularly well-disposed towards the Anglican Church, and his correspondence with the Archbishops of Canterbury is extremely interesting. It was in his time that Mitrophanis Kritopoulos — later to become Patriarch of Alexandria (1636-1639) was sent to England to study. Both Lucaris and Kritopoulos were veat lovers of books and manuscripts, and many of the items in the collections of books and manuscripts that today' adorn 'the Patriarchal Library were acquired by these two Patriarchs.
The Patriarchs of Alexandria in the years that followed cultivated close relations with the Russians. The poverty that continued to afflict the Patriarchate obliged them to address themselves to Great and Orthodox Russia, which always willingly succoured and supported the Patriarchate. Indeed, Patriarch Paisios (1657-1678) himself traveled to Russia at a time when the country was in the throes of the serious dispute between Tsar Alexis and Patriarch Nikon.
Patriarch Samouel Kapasoulis (1710-1723), ushered in a new and brilliant period in the Patriarchate of Alexandria, despite the continuing economic problems. These difficulties led Patriarch Samouel to dispatch Arsenios, Metropolitan Bishop of the Thebaid, to England where he entered into negotiations with the Non-Jurors. These theological discussions focused on the possibility that the two churches might unite, in the end they proved fruitless.
Among the most important and worthy Patriarchs of' the eighteenth century. was Matthaios the Cantor, who was born on the island of Andros (1746-1765). Matthaios was a hard-working Patriarch who did much to organise the Patriarchate in every way. He took an interest in repairing the fabric of its churches, encouraged learning and education, did much to promote the missionary work of the Patriarchate in -the metropolitan bishoprics of the time, and protected the Patriarchate against a foe within: the Latins, whom Matthaios sought to outflank as they strove insidiously to damage the Patriarchate. His devotion to the cause of education led him to set up a School in Alexandria, which received an annual subsidy from Constantinos Nikolaos Mavrokordatos. The ruinous buildings of the Patriarhate were repaired from top to bottom, as were. the Monasteries of St George and St Sabbas. Matthaios was also a major' benefactor of the Patriarchal Library and tried to ensure that the clergy of the Patriarchate were as highly trained, as possible. Although he was 'opposed to mixed marriages, in order to ensure that the children of Greeks and Egyptians received an education he appointed a teacher who spoke both Greek and Arabic. Patriarch Matthaios was particularly interested in Ethiopia, where he sent the priest-monk Stephanos of Siphnos as a missionary. A school was founded in what was then known as Abyssinia. Matthaios's involvement in the more general ecclesiastical affairs of the time often took him to Constantinople. When advancing age overtook him, he abdicated from, the Tatriarchal Throne and retired to the Koutloumousiou Monastery on Mt. Athos, which he renovated before his death.
The nineteenth century could most aptly be described, as the period in which the Patriarchate of Alexandria experienced a renaissance. Much, of this success can be attributed to the personality of Mehmet Ali Pasha (1806-1848), whose pro-Greek sentiments led him to encourage Greeks to settle in Egypt. By increasing the size,of its flock, this was also a great help to the Patriarchate. The Greeks who soon began to arrive in Egypt were not simply chance migrants. They included many men of letters, but above all they were dedicated to business and trade, where their industry and zeal vastly improved the image of Greece to the level their homeland deserved. The accomplishments of these Greeks in Egypt still adorn the country today, drawing admiration from Egyptians and visitors alike. Wherever there were Greeks, there were also projects of historical and cultural significance in fields such as education and farming, which helped the country -of Egypt gain its rightful place in all sectors of life. The contribution made by these men relied heavily on their devotion to everything sublime and beautiful.
The first two Patriarchs of the nineteenth century, Parthenios II (1788-1805) and Theophilos II (1805-1825), both from the island of Patmos, accomplished major projects which were a credit to the Patriarchate. Parthenios concerned himself in particular with the Patriarchal Library, but he also contributed to various renovation projects. By the time Theophilos became Patriarch, conditions had improved and, thanks to the rise of Mehmet Ali, he was able to work free of the Mameluke persecution. Now conditions were favourable for the Christian community. Theophilos' first steps were to found a Greek Community in Egypt, a Greek School and a hospital. In order to encourage donors to the hospital project, Theophilos showed the way by endowing the foundation with the land on which the building was to be constracted. Theophilos also founded the Greek School, but the hostilities which had broken out between Greeks and Turks compelled him to leave Egypt and take refuge in Patmos, where he died.
Ierotheos I (1825-1845) continued the work of his predecessors in re-organising the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In 1843, he co-operated with Michail Tositsas, and other leading Greeks of Egypt on the founding of the Greek Community. In the following year, once more in collaboration with Tositsas and the members of the Community, Ierotheos resolved to found a Community church, of the Annunciation. At this -time of course, the School and the Hospital were both supported by the Community and the Patriarchate.
Patriarch Ierotheos II (1847-1858) continued the task of modernisation begun by his predecessor. He also ordained a number of new bishops, some of whom served as Exarchs, including Nikanor of the Thebaid (in Russia) and Callistratos of Libya (in Romania). It was at this time, too, that the Patriarchal Exarchate in Moscow was f6unded. In 1861, the brothers Raphail and Ananias Ambet set up the Ambeteios School in Cairo. Now, the lay members of the Greek element in Egypt began to take part in all the important questions affecting the Greek Community and the Patriarchate. Over the decades to come, serious problems arose in connection with the election of the Patriarch of Alexandria'and led to division in the Orthodox Christian community. The fact that there were no regulations governing the manner of election of the Patriarch further exacerbated the situation, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople was forced to intervene again and again to resolve the disputes troubling the clergy and the people in Egypt.
For many years, the internal problems which arose whenever a Patriarch had to be elected created difficulties for the Patriarchate. It was not until 1870, with the election to the Throne of Sophronios of Byzantium, a former Patriarch of Constantinople, that peace at last reigned. Now the Patriarchate of Alexandria could regain its former stature. With the foundation of educational and cultural institutions in view of the rapid increase in the number of Greeks in Egypt and with the presence of great benefactors such as Georgios Averof, the Greek community in Egypt and the Patriarchate experienced a period of splendour and prestige. Greek Communities were founded in other parts of Egypt, the number of charitable institutions increased, the first Greek newspapers were published, and the first Greek books were printed. New churches were founded and built. In 1872, Sophronios took part, with the other Patriarchs of the East in the Council which pronounced the Bulgarian Church schismatic.
During the twentieth century, the spiritual regeneration of the Patriarchate of Alexandria reached complition. The number of Greeks in Egypt was higher than at any previous time. The first Patriarch of the twentieth century, Photios Peroglou (1900-1925), strove to increase the prestige of the Patriarchate still further, seven new metropolitan bishoprics and choosing highly-educated clergymen to fill the vacant posts. This was the period when the activities of the Great Benefactors of the Greek Community and the Patriarchate — Constantinos Salvagos, Emmanouil Benakis, Georgios Zervoudakis, M. Synodinos and others- were at their height. These benefactors did much to help in the formation of new educational institutions and even of cultural associations. In 1908, the, Patriarchate opened, its own printing press and began to publish two periodicals, The Church Pharos and Pantaenus. During Photios' term on the patriarchal throne, churches monastery and the Patriarchate itself were renovated.
In 1926, Meletios Metaxakis, a memorable figure, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria. A man of a practical turn of mind, he decided to establish the organization of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on new foundations and to resolve the numerous problems that had been building up since the previous century. One of his first achievements was the publication of the Regulations of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, on 15 May 1930. At last, due attention was paid to the life of the metropolitan bishoprics and the parishes in its entirety, including ritual, the sacraments and even the judicial aspects of life. Meletios also founded the Seminary of St Athanasios. In his time, the Patriarchate supervised ten metropolitan provinces, 90 churches 5 monasteries and 107 parish priests. On his initiative, an Organic Law of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria was drawn up and passed, laying down the manner in which the Patriarch was to be elected and the rights, which he would exercise. In his consultations with the Anglicans, Meletios did much to usher in a new era. The term of se6rvice of Patriarch Christophoros (1939-1967) would best be described as one of large-scale projects and renovation. New metropolitan bishoprics were set up throughout the Dark Continent, and official recognition was granted to the African Orthodox communities. This move did much to consolidate the Patriarchate's missionary activities abroad.
The next two Patriarchs, Nikolaos VI (1968-1986) and Parthenios (1987-1996) strove successfully to adapt to the new conditions in which the 'Patriarchate sought to increase its prestige. Many projects were carried out, and particular care was taken over missionary activities abroad, on new foundations.
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