JOHN IX, eighty-first patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1320-1327). John IX succeeded his predecessor and namesake at one of the most critical moments in Coptic history. Little is known about his life before he took the monastic vow, nor do we know much about his life as a monk. The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS does not indicate the monastery where he enrolled, and only states that he was a native of the village of Nahya in the Minufiyyah Province. He was unanimously selected by the council of bishops, clergy, and ARCHONS shortly after the decease of JOHN VIII. It is not known whether he was consecrated in Cairo or Alexandria, but he is known to have resided at the Church of Our Lady at HARIT ZUWAYLAH, in the midst of a Coptic quarter where he could be safe from the intermittent inroads of Muslim mobs in the capital. John IX was a contemporary of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (1310-1341), and his reign was marked by a series of tragic events that left him no time for attending to reform. He was hindered from the work of restoring any churches by continuous attacks on the Copts, and he was unable to prepare the CHRISM.
The History of the Patriarchs relates John's biography in a matter of a few lines, in which is recorded a general statement that the Copts underwent bitter hardships in his reign and that many of them were killed or burned or even crucified. They were led in humiliating processions on camel's backs, and they were required to wear dark robes with blue turbans and a girdle to distinguish them from the Muslim majority. The Islamic sources relate many details of the repression of the Coptic population. On 8 May 1321, many Coptic churches throughout the country were destroyed. This action was premeditated and highly organized by fanatic groups.
In the face of these events, the Copts, whether Jacobites or Melchites, did not stand motionless. Numbers of them stealthily found their ways to Muslim mosques and set them ablaze as a measure of retaliation, a fact that prompted Muslim counteractions. It is said that a group of Melchite monks from Turah contemplated the burning of Cairo.
The History of the Patriarchs concludes its biography by saying that peace was restored by the time John died.
SUBHI Y. LABIB
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