On this day also, of the year 656 A.D., the blessed and holy father Abba Benjamin, 38th Pope of Alexandria, departed.
This father was from the city of Barset (Barshout), the province of El-Behiera. He was the son of wealthy parents.
He became a monk under the guidance of a holy elder by the name of Theonas in the monastery of St. Knobus nearby Alexandria. He grew in virtue and memorized the holy books of the church until he reached the level of Christian perfection.
One night he heard in a night vision someone saying, "Rejoice Benjamin, for you will shepherd the flock of Christ." When he told his spiritual father about what he had heard, he said to him, "The devil wants to hinder you. Beware of pride." He increased in virtue. His spiritual father took him to Pope Andronicus and told him about Abba Benjamin's vision. The Pope ordained him priest and put him in charge of the church affairs, and he excelled in his care.
When he was chosen to the patriarchate, he faced many tribulations. The angel of the Lord had revealed to him the hardships that the church was about to experience. The angel told him to flee with his bishops. St. Benjamin celebrated the Divine Liturgy and administered the Holy Mysteries to the people. He also commanded them to be steadfast in the faith of their fathers and informed them of what was about to happen. He wrote a circular to all the bishops and all the heads of the monasteries, advising them to hide until the hardships were over. Then he went to the wilderness of St. Macarius, then to Upper Egypt.
After the Pope had left Alexandria, the Chalcedonian El-Moquakas arrived, and took charge over the country and seized the church with authority from Emperor Heraclius. He persecuted the believers and arrested "Mina", St. Benjamin's brother, and tortured him severely. Then he burnt his sides, and finally killed him by drowning him.
Shortly after, Amr Ebn-Elas invaded the land of Egypt and stayed there for three years. In 360 A.M. (Anno Martyri), Amr went to Alexandria and gained control of its fortress. Many evil men took the chance and burned many churches, among them was St. Mark's Church on the seashore, and many other monasteries that were surrounding Alexandria, and plundered their contents. One of the sailors went to the church of St. Mark during this disturbance and he thrust his hand into the sarcophagus of St. Mark, thinking that he would find money. He did not find anything except a body. He stole the clothing that was on it and took the head with him, and hid it in his ship and did not tell anyone.
When Amr Ebn-Elas knew about the disappearance of Pope Benjamin, he sent a circular to all the cities of Egypt, giving orders that the Pope's hiding place be safe and secure. He asked the Pope to come back to his people and to take charge of the church. Pope Benjamin came back after he had been in hiding for 13 years. Amr Ebn-Elas was courteous toward him and honored him. He returned the churches and all their properties back to him.
When Amr was about to leave Alexandria, heading to Pentapolis (the five western cities), one of the ships could not move and was unable to leave. The captain of the ship was questioned and when they searched the ship they found the head of St. Mark. They called upon Pope Benjamin and he carried it and walked with the priests and the people while they were joyfully singing hymns, until they arrived to Alexandria. The captain of the ship paid a great amount of money to the Pope to build a church after the name of St. Mark.
This father was dedicated to converting the unbelievers to the Christian faith. He departed in peace after he had been on the apostolic throne for 37 years.
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
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