“The room in its current state is still much better than the manger where Christ was born,” Pope Kyrillos VI (Coptic Orthodox patriarch from 1959 to 1971) once said of his private room, in reply to a non-Egyptian priest who was visiting him at the then papal headquarters in the grounds of Saint Mark’s in Azbakiya, Cairo. The priest, seeing that the Pope’s room was very humble, had said it was not fit for a patriarch and had asked His Holiness to give him permission to furnish the room and decorate it; hence the reply of Pope Kyrillos.
Today Pope Kyrillos VI is a modern-day saint in the Coptic Church; he was canonised in 2014, and the humble room has become a small museum which displays a collection of photos and items which the Pope possessed or used. Last Sunday 8 March Pope Tawadros II opened this museum. He expressed his joy at the occasion: “Today, I am very happy to be here to commemorate 44 years on the passing away of Pope Kyrillos VI. St Mark’s here has been the papal seat for nine patriarchs from 1800 to 1971.” He thanked Bishop General Anba Raphael, Secretary-General of the Holy Synod, for his great effort in making the museum see light.
Before opening the museum, Pope Tawadros II presided over Holy Mass at St Mark’s in Azbakiya. During parts of Holy Mass when he had to sit down, the Pope sat on the old wooden papal seat at St Mark’s. This made the congregation break into applause since this is the first time in some 30 years that a pope sat there. The last time was when Pope Shenouda III (Patriarch from 1971 to 2012) sat there when he was officiating at a funerary Mass there.
The date 9 March 1971 marks the death anniversary of the Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI, born on 2 August 1902, the 116th Pope of Alexandria and successor of Saint Mark the Evangelist. He sat on the throne of Saint Mark for twelve years (1959-1971) and gained a reputation for being a holy man of prayer who possessed many spiritual gifts, including the ability to lead by example and perform wonders and miracles. He brought the Coptic Church into a new era of renaissance and was highly regarded by the people of Egypt from all walks of life, Christians and non-Christians alike.
11 March 2015