Love · Prayer · St Kyrillos VI

How St Kyrillos saved the life of Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas I

Fr Kyrillos Massoudi, parish priest of St Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church in Egypt, relates:

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.”

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.

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