A letter of love and gratitude to His Grace Metropolitan Pachomius of Beheira and Pentapolis, and Abbot of the Monastery of St Macarius of Alexandria
This is the second letter I write and publish to Your Grace, meant to wish you the very best on your 85th birthday on 17 December, 49th anniversary of your consecration as bishop on 12 December (and 30 years as a metropolitan), also on 58 years on taking your vows as a monk on 11 November. It is also meant to thank our great God who responded to the prayers, prostrations and tears of your children and the supplications and intercession of the martyrs and saints in heaven headed by our precious Mother, the Ever Virgin St Mary. The Lord stretched His hand and healed you from your last illness and brought you back to us, safe and sound.
Indeed, my beloved father, you are a pillar of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the monastic tradition. It is no secret what you did for the Coptic Church in one of the most turbulent times it passed through in modern times, when His Holiness Pope Shenouda III passed away in March 2012 as Egypt in its entirety struggled with an Islamist movement that rose to power on the wings of the so-called Arab Spring unrest in 2011.
Many have written about your great role, counting you as “the unlisted Patriarch”. But not many people know of your great contribution to the widespread Parish of Beheira which Your Grace created from scratch. This was mainly achieved through your limitless humbleness, a humbleness that has always impressed me as it did all of those around you. This is one of the many monastic virtues that you enjoy and truly exemplify; one that has been growing with Your Grace, guiding you to a form of amazing selflessness. This virtue, together with others, was led by spiritual enlightenment and wisdom, enabling you to put up with countless problems and harsh criticism while establishing this parish. I learnt from my father that when you first came to Damanhour, you did not have a proper residence to live in. You never minded it, yourself being a true monk who cherishes the virtue of voluntary poverty. You told me that for years you used to sleep on the floor in your cell in al-Suryan Monastery in Egypt’s Western Desert; you possessed hardly any furniture. Nor did you have any form of modern means of transport to carry you through your service which required extensive travelling to the far flung villages and towns in your parish. Even so, you did not mind walking, taking a poor horse carriage, or getting a lift from whoever offers you one. You never minded these details, regarding them as petty, and giving from day one an example of the shepherd whose main concern is serving his flock, nothing but. Even today, you still have a simple abode to live in an extremely simple life style. However, you enjoy the riches of God’s grace and the love of your children. Day after day, you grow inside out to look like the early fathers of the Egyptian wilderness.
In building your parish, dear father, you spared nothing for the sake of the spiritual foundation and welfare of your children whom you always overwhelmed with your amazing love, a love that encompasses all sorts of people and as many as one can imagine. The space of this article will never suffice or give you your due right. However, I have a confession to make; many a time I cannot look at your full-of-love eyes. Their overflowing love stems from true companionship with our Lord who is ultimately LOVE.
Among your many achievements has been the building of churches in various places, together with buildings that not only served your children in Church, but also serve the full wider community. In this regard, I have to mention how Your Grace always had a look into the far future, making you buy stretches of land for which at the time you were harshly criticised. But you proved everyone wrong, and these priceless pieces of land now comprise the cathedral and other churches, together with a hospital and a school serving the community. You always realised the importance of health and education as cornerstones for the wholesome formation of humans. I witnessed part of the journey of building al-Karma (The Vineyard) School in Damnahour; its beginning coincided with your return from your medical trip to London in 2015. Yet, nothing would deter Your Grace from your goal, so in February 2016 you laid the foundation stone for the school the vision and mission of which are concerned with providing students with the best possible education and planting in them values that will make them good citizens.
My dearest father, this letter just touches on a fragment of your greatness which you so cleverly hide by your humility. I conclude it by thanking the Lord for having you as a father, shepherd and leader, and by praying that He will keep you a pillar of the Church and the monasticism tradition until the Second Coming. And I repeat with Isaiah the Prophet, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
On behalf of thousands of your children everywhere, I thank you for your endless love and support, and pray that we always live up to your expectations, continue to please you and please the heart of our Heavenly Father.
One of your children
16 December 2020