The Departure of St. Yoannis the 16th, the 103rd Pope of Alexandria
Today also, of the year 1434 A.M. (June 15, 1718 A.D.), Pope Yoannis the Sixteenth, the 103rd Patriarch of Alexandria, departed. This Pope was known by the name "Yoannis El-Tokhi". His parents were Christians from Tokh El-Nasara, the diocese of El-Menoufia. They brought their son, whose name was Ibrahim, with the best of care. They provided him with the best of education. God blessed him from his youth, thus he grew up in virtue and in a chaste life.
When his father departed, he forsake the world and desired the monastic life. He went to the monastery of St. Antony in the wilderness of Araba, and became a monk there. He put on the garb of the monk and attired with the holy Eskeem. When he showed his dedication in worship and asceticism, the fathers the monks chose him to be a priest. Pope Mattheos, the Fourth, ordained him a priest for the monastery, in the church of the Virgin Lady in Haret Zeewailah. He became more righteous in his new priestly rank, and increased his worship, until his godliness, humility and meekness became well known. When Pope Mattheos departed, the bishops, priests and lay leaders, met to choose a good shepherd. They elected a number of priests and monks, among whom was this father. They casted an altar lot after they had celebrated the holy liturgy for three consecutive days, asking God to guide them to the one who is fit to shepherd His people. When the lot was made, it fell on this father. They knew and realized that God had chosen him for this office. He was ordained on Sunday, the ninth of Baramhat, 1392 A.M. (May 5th, 1676 A.D.). He was called Yoannis the 16th. The celebration of his enthronement was splendid and the joy prevailed everywhere in Egypt.
He gave his attention to the restoration of the monasteries and the churches. He restored the holy places in Jerusalem and paid off its debts. He renovated many churches and monasteries which he consecrated by his blessed hands. He gave special attention to the monastery of St. Paul, the first hermit, in mount Nemra. The monastery was desolate for a period of more than one hundred years. He opened it, restored it, reestablished the monastic life in it, and made it better than before. He prepared books, veils, altar accessories, and relics of saints for it, and consecrated it himself. He ordained many priests, deacons and monks for it on Sunday the 19th of Bashans, 1421 A.M. (May 25, 1705 A.D.). He visited the monastery of the great St. Antony, the father of the monks, in mount El-Kalzam, four times: the first was in the month of Kiahk, 1395 A.M. (1678 A.D.), accompanied by the head of the monastery, and some monks. The second was in the 20th of Baramouda, 1411 A.M. (1695 A.D.) at the end of the holy fast. He was accompanied by Fr. John the Virgin, the priest of the church of the Virgin in Haret El-Room and the honorable deacon El-Moallem Girgis El-Toukhy Abu Mansour, and El-Moallem Soliman El-Sarraf El-Shenrawi. The third time was in Misra 1417 A.M. (1701 A.D.), and the fourth time was in 1421 A.M. (1705 A.D.) to consecrate the monastery of St. Paul.
In the blessed month of Abib, 1417 A.M., a great tribulation befell the Orthodox Christians of Egypt, during the reign of the governor Mohammed Pasha. An accusation had reached him that the Coptic Christians had built new buildings in their churches. The Governor appointed an Agha, architects, and judges to go and investigate the accusation. They came back with the evidence that there were many new constructions in the churches. However, God did not forsake His people by the prayers of this godly Pope. Many honorable people in Egypt went to the Governor to intercede on behalf of the Christians. The Governor ordered that a fine be paid as a penalty. The Pope met with the lay leaders El-Moallem Youhanna Abu Masri, El-Moallem Girgis Abu Mansour, and El-Moallem Ibrahim Abu Awad. They agreed unanimously that the Pope would visit the Christians in their homes, and collect what needed to be collected. The penalty was collected and paid to the Governor. The lay leaders were able to pay it back to the people and every one rejoiced. The churches were opened, and there was peace. The Pope took it hard going to the homes of the believers asking for money, so he went to the monastery of St. Antony on the 7th of the month of Misra, 1417 A.M. for a retreat.
In 1419 A.M., the Pope desired to make the Holy Oil (Myron). The Lord answered his request, and moved the heart of a Christian, the great lay leader, El-Moallem Girgis Abu Mansour, the administrator of the churches of El-Muallakah and Haret El-Roum. He was charitable to the poor and the needy, cared for the places of the saints and martyrs. He participated in every good deed with the Pope. He prepared what was needed (oil, spices, perfumes), and the Holy Myron was cooked and consecrated by the Pope in the Church of the Virgin in Haret El-Roum. The Myron had not been made for a period of two hundred and forty seven years, during which, 18 Popes sat on the throne of St. Mark. He was also the first to build the Patriarchate residence in Haret El-Roum, and dedicated properties and revenue for it.
In 1425 A.M. (1709 A.D.), this Pope visited Jerusalem, with some of the bishops, many archpriests, priests, and laymen. The honored deacon El-Moallem Girgis Abu Mansour El-Toukhy, paid all the expenses of this trip. He also paid all the expenses for the renovation of the church of the Virgin known as El-Muallakah in Old Cairo.
The Pope visited the churches, and monasteries. He also visited St. Mark church in Alexandria. He traveled everywhere in both Lower and Upper Egypt. In his time, he allowed the Holy Elements (the Body and the Blood of Christ) to be taken to the sick and those who could not come to the church. This Pope was loved by everyone, and he was honored and respected for his humility, meekness, and his love for the poor. His door was always open to everyone who would call upon him. The days of his papacy were quiet. The Lord was with him, and delivered him from all his sorrows. He accepted his prayers and supplications and he lived to a good old age.
When he completed his course, he became sick for a short time. Then he departed in peace, with his friend the honorable lay leader Girgis Abu Mansour within one week. Many mourned him, and the bishops, the priests, and the lay leaders attended the prayers on his body. They carried him with great honor, and placed the body in the tomb of the Patriarchs in the church of St. Mercurius Abu Saifain in Old Cairo, in the 10th of Baounah, 1434 A.M., after he had been on the throne of St. Mark for forty two years and three months.
May his prayers be with us. Amen.
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