“None of those who opposed him had any success,” once commented the late Pope Shenouda III. The consequences for those who dared conspire against Kyrillos were often severe; as a “holy man,” it was as though, many claimed, God himself were protecting him. Their unfortunate accounts are littered throughout the sources.
One other unfortunate man, Fr Raphael Ava Mina recalls, pretended to be the spokesman of a diocese, and voiced disapproval of a monk who was to be ordained bishop. “If you ordain him for us, we will send him back to you!” In reply, Kyrillos declared, “I leave you to God, I leave you to God . . .” The poor man did not make it home, having been struck by a car and killed. Another heard the same words and suffered a massive stroke; and one well-known priest who was unrepentant in his fierce verbal abuse of the patriarch did not see evening before dying of a sudden heart attack.
But it was the death of one of his metropolitans that most disturbed Kyrillos. Towards the end of 1962—triggered perhaps by Kyrillos’ attempted investigation into the matter of simony in the 1961 Synod—Metropolitan Youannis of Giza sought to appoint a committee to depose the patriarch. Some, such as Fr Raphael, suggest Youannis’ motive was that Kyrillos was “an uneducated man . . . who had no priorities other than prayer.”150 But the timing is suggestive of the former. Youannis traveled throughout Egypt gathering signatures, turning not a few bishops against the patriarch, before eventually returning to his diocese. Kyrillos had just begun Vespers at the cathedral in Alexandria when he was notified of the plot. As he raised incense near the icon of St Mark, he was heard to say, “St Mark, this will be the last time I come in here to you . . . I will go to the desert and never come back if this man’s project succeeds.” The next day, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, Metropolitan Youannis of Giza was found dead at his residence. The Ahram Newspaper reported on February 12, 1963,
Anba Youannis, Metropolitan of Giza and Qalobeya, died yesterday in his bed at the cathedral building in Giza. The Metropolitan took one spoon of medicine from the bottle next to his bed. He immediately felt sharp pain . . . one of the doctors tried to revive him, but he left this life. The doctor was originally treating him for bronchitis, but the metropolitan mistakenly took the medicine that caused his death. A police investigation requested that a coroner examine his body and extract the liquid to determine what was in this bottle.
This teaching, almost invariably, was that of silence. One present bishop’s recollection is characteristic. As Kyrillos sat with Metropolitan Daniel of Khartoum (1922–2000) on a balcony at the cathedral, a number of bishops and clergy (unaware that Kyrillos was above them) began cursing him—“curses that you could never even hear on the street”—but Kyrillos, so the metropolitan recalls, was entirely unperturbed. It was as though he simply could not hear them. “Knowing their plans,” writes Fr Raphael of these and other bishops,
…he would still meet them in humbleness and speak to them with love. All he did was pray with tears, so the Church might walk in peace and safety, but they were the tears of painful, unjust treatment. It was but a short time that they all departed from our world, one after the other. The pope was mourning them for years, he would say when any of them died: “It was as if a part of my spirit was taken from me.”