It is among life’s pleasures to love someone for no particular reasons; a love that springs from the heart and soul before the mind and reason. This kind of love is what has connected me over the years with my brother and friend His Grace Anba Moussa, Bishop of Youth in our Coptic Orthodox Church. I was always drawn to his sunny smile, humility, and warmth, which would quickly overshadow the usual sentiments of solemnity and reverence we hold for our religious figures. Whenever I met Anba Moussa I would rush to warmly welcome and embrace him, then go on to converse with him in the most beneficial and gentlest of talks.
I was keen to highlight my personal sentiments before pointing out that Anba Moussa is a pillar among the writers of spiritual literature in Watani. His rich, valuable contributions have been indispensable to Watani readers who have been regularly reading his weekly column over the past decades. So, in addition to my close human rapport with Anba Moussa, we also share strong professional ties. Both aspects of the relation represent for me an ever-increasing credit of love, appreciation and respect for the man to whose sermons I always loved to listen.
Despite that invisible bond with Anba Moussa, my familiarity with his astounding service in the Church has remained confined to its basic framework. That is, until God arranged for me to be informed of the full scale of this service through someone from the far end of the Earth.
About a week ago, the telephone rang in my office and I was greeted by a voice which I thought belonged to a native English speaker, owing to the perfect, fluent English he used. He presented himself as Father Matthew Attia, Parish Priest of St George Coptic Church in Sydney, and Vicar General of the diocese of Sydney. Fr Matthew told me he would send me an article he had written to mark 40 years on the consecration of Anba Moussa as Bishop of Youth, and that he wished that it would be published in Watani. I welcomed the idea and, as promised, received through email Fr Matthew’s article. I began reading it and found a wealth of information on the details of Anba Moussa’s astounding pastoral journey. A new dimension was thus added to the human and professional respect in which I held Anba Moussa. Watani International posted the article online on 25 May, the anniversary of Anba Moussa’s consecration as Bishop of Youth, and is printing it in the current issue. The article is also being translated into Arabic to present to the Arabic language reader of Watani. I am happy, however, to highlight here some of its most remarkable features.
Father Matthew writes about Anba Moussa’s early years and service in Beni Sweif, before he took monastic vows in 1975 as Father Angellos El-Baramousy, five years later becoming Bishop of Youth. He highlights Anba Moussa’s theological vision in the care for young people, nurturing and developing them on a spiritual level, also his remarkable imprint on them. He refers to the three cornerstones of spiritual life as taught by Anba Moussa, which are spiritual fatherhood, spiritual programmes, and spiritual environment. Naturally, Father Matthew refers to His Grace’s wealth of writings over 40 years, as well as the periodicals that the Bishopric of Youth has been publishing under his leadership. The article also spotlights the international annual pastoral conventions and conferences which Anba Moussa has been leading since 1989, the Youth Leaders Centre Anba Moussa established in 1995, as well as his extensive services in caring for expatriate youth. Added to that are various services offered to needy people, orphans, the unemployed and many others. Many pressing societal issues that Anba Moussa has addressed are also covered by the article; these include addiction, homosexuality, human rights and religious extremism. Fr Matthew reminds readers that Anba Moussa was delegated by Pope Shenouda III to represent the Coptic Orthodox Church in several ecumenical conferences and conventions around the world, and it was he who established the Youth Ecumenical Committee.
This is but a brief summary of the features of the self-giving life journey and service of His Grace Anba Moussa, Bishop of Youth throughout 40 years. The solid wealth of detail adds to the love and respect I and so many others hold for that great man.
31 May 2020