Short account of his life
9 March 2019
The Departed, His Holines Pope Kyrillos (Cyri) VI. The 115th Successor to St. Mark the Evangelist (1902-1971)
His Holiness Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI (Atta) of Alexandria (transliterated Kyrellos, or Kirellos), born Azer Atta (August 2, 1902 – March 9, 1971), was Coptic Orthodox Pope from 1959 to 1971. Pope Kyrillos was one of the greatest popes, patriarchs and ascetics in Orthodoxy. He was a man of prayer, and held daily masses and his door was open to everyone.
He was a wonder-working saint with gifts of healing, exorcising demons, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and prophecy, as well as the gifts of those that the coptic church designate as “anchorites” namely the gifts of agility (instantaneously travelling/ teleporting to far places), and that of bilocation (being at two places at the same time).
He was a world class ascetic who survived only on a piece of prosphora (unconsecrated communion bread), a cup of espresso coffee and a glass of water during lent.
A great revival of monasticism and an expansion of church-building inside and outside of Egypt took place in his episcopacy. He continues to work miracles to this day (almost 50 years after his death), and was canonized in the Coptic Church in 2013.
May his prayer be with us all Amen.
Fr Boules George recounts a time he was asked for advice by some youth who wanted to emigrate to Canada from Egypt four years ago. The plan was to finalise the paperwork, find work and go and serve at St Mina’s Coptic Church, Canada. Not long after the priest travelled to that parish and preached on ‘God’s Love and His Care’ which was well-received except for one 16-year-old girl who had cried profusely from start to finish. Puzzled the priest thought he must have said something wrong or offensive for the teen to have such a strong reaction so he asked one of the servants to find her and privately spoke with her.
“I’m rather confused,” Fr Boules said. “As soon as I began to preach you cried, a lot, and you did not stop till I finished. What did I say that hurt you so deeply? I honestly meant my words generally not directed to you or another. I’m afraid to have offended you unknowingly.” “Well, here’s my story Father,” the 16-year old said.
“Both my father and mother were bludgeoned to death before my eyes recently at home by two strangers. I was terrified so I hid under my bed praying I would survive. It was… And, when you began talking about God’s love and His care, it brought up that horrific image all over again in my mind. That’s why I couldn’t stop crying. Your words touched me to the core.”
The priest apologised for inadvertently raising the recent tragedy to her in his homily. “No Father,” she said, tearfully. “I’ll fill you in on the rest of the story and why your words moved me.” The teen explained although her family were Chaldean Catholic living in the Middle East they revered Pope Kyrillos VI and a large picture of him was found in their house. “When those men killed my father and mother I was in absolute fear and horror hiding under my bed,” she said.
“As I shook in terror to what seemed an eternity, a man extended his arms and raised me up out from the bed. When I rose, I saw it was Pope Kyrillos himself who hugged me saying, ‘Don’t worry my daughter, mum and dad are with Jesus in heaven for their witness to Christ. I will personally escort you to a safe place, do you understand me?’ I told him, I understood what he said.
“Now, I don’t remember what happened in details thereafter but I recall some people took me to the Canadian embassy to get a visa, it was done quickly and before I knew it I was on the plan bound for a new home. How it happened I don’t know. Here’s the strange part. While the safety announcements were made to fasten your seatbelts, I turned to see Pope Kyrillos sitting beside me and he hugged me. Smiling he said, ‘May you arrive safely my beloved.’”
The teen then opened her handbag and gave the priest a handful of images of the saint. “You know Father, whenever I find a picture of him I keep it in my bag so I can give it to others as a blessing,” she said.
*A blessed feast of the Man of Prayer.*
“Let me tell you a story. I have been extremely blessed and honoured to have witnessed a giant pillar of faith, wisdom and joy for three years as a personal disciple to the great saint and hero among the fathers Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas I. There is no doubt this man lived a saintly life in every way not only as the Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church but for all of humanity. He was a true disciple of Christ in his sacrificial love, zeal for peace and unity.
I learnt a lot from him. It seems that the saints connect with one another and know by the Spirit only things known to God. As I was being consecrated a monk, my saintly father and teacher asked me what name I wanted to mark my new life at the monastery of St Ephraim, Damascus. “Your Holiness, thank you for giving me the option of choosing my monastic name,” I said.
“I want to be named Kyrillos after my beloved patron saint Pope Kyrillos VI who worked this and that miracle with me, please.” The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch looked and smiled. “Well, isn’t that funny,” he said. “I know Pope Kyrillos well myself and know firsthand he is a man of prayer and faith.” The pontiff recounted a story when he was the archbishop of Baghdad and Basra in 1969 by the name of Mor Severios Zakka.
“I was sent to Alexandria to represent the then Patriarch Ignatius Yacoub III as the archbishop to the Coptic Church to meet Pope Kyrillos for a certain matter,” he said. “On my way from Beirut to the Alexandrian port, Pope Kyrillos had sent a bishop on his behalf to welcome me and told him hours earlier, without me knowing at the time, ‘His Eminence Mor Severios Zakka will be late and the Lord will deliver him from death. The trip will be treacherous, the waves great and a real dangerous journey. I must start praying for his safe arrival from now. So, wait till I tell you to go meet him. Don’t go yet.’”
“When I finally arrived after a perilous trip in which I saw death flash before my eyes on the water, I apologised to Metropolitan Athanasius for my extended delay thinking he had been waiting hours for me.” The Syriac bishop recounted to the Coptic bishop the near-death experience he had on the way to Alexandria. “You don’t know Father how tough the journey was!” he said. “The ship was about to capsize and everyone was going to drown but thank God it passed.”
The Coptic bishop smiled. “Thank God you are here Father,” he said. “His Holiness was praying you would be delivered. He told me what your journey would be like, how dangerous it would be, while he prayed for hours that you be spared death. Now, let’s go see him.” Patriarch Ignatius Zakka l paused for a few moments. “I will never forget that act of love Pope Kyrillos did for me,” he said to the new monk. “Truly he is a man of prayer and miracles.”- Fr Kyrillos Massoudi, parish priest of St Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church, Egypt.
A rare picture of two great saints- His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas I, then Mor Severios Zakka (with the arrow above his head) and St Pope Kyrillos VI.
“Pope Kyrillos would pray day and night, without ceasing. In the morning he would pray Matins and the Divine Liturgy, in the evening he would preside over Vespers, and at night, he would pray the Midnight praises. In February of 1963, one of the elder Metropolitans of the Holy Synod conspired against His Holiness the Pope, and gathered signatures from the members of the Holy Synod, petitioning to remove His Holiness from his position as Patriarch of the Church, with the accusation that the Pope constantly abandoned his responsibilities with the excuse of prayer, and was negligent in dealing with the issues of his flock.
His Holiness had heard that this Metropolitan had gathered the signatures of the last members of the Synod, and was ready to offer the petition up to the Egyptian President, with the goal of exiling His Holiness back to the desert, and appointing a committee of bishops to preside over the Patriarchate. His Holiness immediately went into the Grand Cathedral of Saint Mark, and prayed Vespers Raising of Incense. During the Incense Rounds, Pope Kyrillos stopped at an icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist, and, with tears in his eyes, said, “It seems like tonight may be the last night I’ll be praying with you. Unless you fix this, I’ll be returning to the desert tomorrow at the latest, so you’ll have to meet me there!”
That night, the Metropolitan had received the last signature needed to offer the petition to the Egyptian Government. On the car ride back to his residence, the Metropolitan had his window open, and caught a severe cough. Before he slept, he thought of taking some cough syrup to relieve his cough. Without realizing, the Metropolitan had drunk bleach, which he personally filled the cough syrup bottle with to use in the cleaning of his bathroom months prior. The Metropolitan died that night, and when news of his death reached His Holiness, the Pope wept bitterly, and presided over the funeral of the Metropolitan, and was the last one to leave after the burial. On his way back to the Papal Residence, the Pope passed a small icon of Saint Mark, and said, “Hail to you, O my hero!”
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). St. Pope Kyrillos VI faced many troubles and oppositions during his papacy. They were often the cause of great sadness for him. Through some of his letters we gain a glimpse of his interior disposition.
In a letter in November 1961, he wrote, “I was late in replying and sending you a letter because of the multiple distractions that are renewed every day in the Coptic Community. God alone is able to solve these problems.” And in another letter in December of 1964, he wrote, “Let us have patience with those who have rewarded good with evil.”
This last letter was written from the monastery of St. Mina in Mariut, where he often went to spend time in prayer and seclusion when he faced strong tribulations. In fact at the very beginning of this letter which he wrote to his brother he began with the verse from the psalmist, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander off, and remain in the wilderness. (Psalm 55:6)”
His brother tried to convince the Pope to stay in Alexandria because he feared that the Pope’s enemies would be critical of him fleeing to the monastery. He wanted the Pope to appear strong and powerful. But the Pope saw this as human wisdom which didn’t agree with him.
Quoting St. Isaac the Syrian he wrote, “My brother, planning based on human knowledge is tiresome, but faith is everything. Be comforted… the Lord is the only one who is directing everything in our lives.” He continued, “Be certain and confident that when the Lord wills, we will go, whether to Alexandria or to Cairo. Since, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28)“
The Pope’s saddened heart was always renewed by his deep faith which brought heavenly comfort and consolation. He wrote, “…my heart is comforted. Let’s not forget the Lord’s mighty deeds with us. Was it through our strength or our knowledge that we obtained these victories which the Lord granted us? Don’t you remember how those mighty ones tried hard to disturb us? Where are they now? Do you recall their punishment?… Lay your burdens upon the Lord and He will take care of you.”
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) St. Pope Kyrillos VI once met an elderly gentleman accompanied by a relative, a young lady. Though he had never met them before, as soon as His Holiness saw this elderly gentleman, he stood up welcoming him by his name saying, “Uncle Botros, please pray and call upon the Lord for me!”
The elderly gentleman was overwhelmed by the Pope’s clairvoyance and the fact that in such humility he stood to welcome him. He was surprised that the saintly Pope was imploring him, a layman, to pray for him. In fact, this gentleman was living a holy celibate life and spending all his money on his nephews and others.
His Holiness also gave joy and consolation to this self-sacrificing gentleman by turning to his relative, the young lady that accompanied him, and said, “May the Lord give you a son and name him Botros (after the elderly man).” The man was filled with great joy and left the Pope very happy. Surprisingly, the young lady was already just at the very beginning of her pregnancy.
My sister went once to His Holiness, the Pope, to seek his advice on a person who recently proposed to her, but she was not satisfied. The Pope comforted her saying, “Do not worry, my daughter… The one you do not like has gone. When you return home, you’ll find the one that God chose for you.” My sister did not know of anyone coming that day to ask for her hand in marriage. When His Holiness finished talking, he looked through the window behind him and said, “Hurry up, go home before it starts raining!” Then he made the sign of the Cross and said, “No, it would not rain till you reach your doorstep”. It happened that after she arrived home, it started raining and there was the man who later became her husband. Nobody at home knew beforehand that this person is going to come and ask to marry her.
Mr. Bashry Yonan, from Shobra, Cairo related the following: “I have a son that had a chronic pulmonary disease. He had frequented many doctors to no avail, there was simply no cure. One day I took to my son to see Pope Kyrillos VI. While the Pope was praying in the upper part of the church, I let my son play with the children at the lower part of the church. After the Pope was done praying, all the children started surrounding him, grabbing his clothes, so the Pope gently hit them, including my son.
I then took my son to the pope and told him, ‘I came here to bring this sick child so you can help, and you hit him?’ The Pope said, ‘Did I hit your son by mistake, alright bring him here.’ So I brought him and the Pope gently slapped him, and then asked what he was suffering from. I told him and he got a piece of cotton anointed with holy oil, and gently scrubbed him, and told me to repeat that 3 times, and I did, and by the fourth time my son was completely healed.”
My wife, children, and I are deeply indebted to Pope Kyrillos forever and ever. He cannot be repaid for all the miracles he has performed for us all. We owe him for saving my wife’s life from cancer and protecting her in numerous potentially harmful situations; For saving my son’s life twice, once from cancer and the other from a potentially fatal car accident, during which he did not sustain a scratch; For saving my other son from an impossible drug problem;
For keeping the peace, love, and happiness inside my home. And finally, for actions which could not be published even in this blessed book. It is with much gratitude that I say, “I love you Pope Kyrillos”, and, “I love you my Lord Jesus for all the trouble your Holy saint, my beloved Pope Kyrillos goes through, and please make these blessings continue until my spiritual eyes see you when I return home”. (Safwat Youssef M.D. – Ref: Pope Kyrillos The heavenly harp)
Since I was seventeen, I smoked three to four packets of cigarettes per day. This continued for the next forty-five years. And, even though I tried several times to quit, I could not. On December 5, 1995, I read in a book of Pope Kyrillos miracles about a man who was able to quit smoking through Pope Kyrollos’ intercession. I decided I would ask him to also help me stop this terrible habit. That night I saw Pope Kyrollos in a dream. He was dresscd in his black tunic holding his walking stick and cross. He asked mc, “What is on your mind?” And, I told him that I was tired. With fatherly love, he took my hand and told me to give him what was in my pocket. I took out a pack of cigarettes and gave it to him. He told me that he also wanted the green lighter I had. The next nx)rng. I asked my wife to throw out my cigarettes and the lighters. Not only did I never smoke again, but I also hate smell of cigarettes. During the rough times when I was tempted, I was supported by the intercessions of Pope Kyrollos.
Taken from the “I am the way John 14:6” Pope Kyrillos book of miracles
Mr. Mounir Farid Salama from Cairo: Three years ago my six-year-old daughter became deaf. SeveraJ specialists who recommended an operation to restore her hearing checked her. We implored the Lord asking for the intercessions of Pope Kyrollos on her behalf. The night before the surgery, my daughter, Mary, saw a man with a long beard holding a cross in his hand. He said, “Do not fear Mary. I am Pope Kyrollos. Your ear is now healed.” When she awoke she told us what happened, and we found her hearing was restored to normal. The doctors who previously examined her had no explanation for her cure.
Great are the intercessions of the saints on our behalf. May the blessings of His saints be with us all.
*The book that held this account (“I am the way” Pope kyrillos miracle book) was published in 2003.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4: 7)
I did not know Pope Kyrillos well, but heard conflicting stories about him. Once he was nominated to become a Patriarch, I attacked him aggressively in one of the newspapers. He later became the Pope, and I traveled to Alexandria to congratulate him.
After paying him my respects, I noticed his cheerful countenance, so I assumed that he was unaware of what I had written about him in the paper. During our conversation, he said to me: ”They say this and that about me ….” Referring to my accusation to him. I was extremely embarrassed, and said to him: “Forgive me your Holiness, for I did not know you well!” He smiled and said: “You did not attack me, but rather Father Mina the Hermit, who died to the world! I am Kyrillos the father of all!” I sensed his loving and forgiving heart, and from that moment on we became really close friends. At the end of my visit, he called his disciple and told him: “Anytime Mr. Nazmy is here to visit me, let him in. Even if I am asleep, knock on my door to wake me up.”
This is how great his heart was, and through love, he won others over. Even the ones who resisted him, they became loyal friends. Pope Kryillos knew that the greatness of man is not due to his position, or popularity; but rather to his sincere interest in each and every person, desiring their personal friendship.
He is a Patriarch whose mission was to seek all as a father that forgives! The tremendous heart is not measured by the hierarchy in the church, or age and experience; on the other hand it is based on the amazing love.
Fr. Raphael Avva Mina, the close disciple of St. Pope Kyrillos VI, said: “Since I set foot into the patriarchal residence, I have not seen his holiness go one day without shedding tears for the problems and troubles of the church. He was faced daily with the various problems of his children and the attacks from the ones who have gone astray with disobedience. Each problem touched his gentle heart and worried his humble soul; he would express his heavy weight with his words “if it was one worry, I would have withstood it, but its one worry, a second, and a third …….
In the midst of all these tribulations he never stood alone, he stepped over the thorns and withstood the heat of the war, raised against him by the stubborn, and God’s hand was always supporting him. With persistence in prayer he took ‘out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness (Judges 14:14)’. He repeated in deep sighs “my eyes look to the Lord at all times, for he gets my foot out of the trap, look to me and have mercy on me for I am a poor lonely son, the sadness of my heart has increased, relieve me from my tribulations, O Lord look to my grief and distress and forgive me all my sins, look to my enemies for they have accused me falsely, keep my soul and save me. I do not wither for I have depended on you. (Psalms 25.15-20)”
The strength of his patience and bearing in facing the vigorous problems surprised many; one of the officials once said “this man is a mountain, not a human”. When the problems increased to the extent that they effected his health another confessed: ‘We do not deserve this man”.