JOHN XVIII, 107th patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1769-1796). A monk of the Monastery of Saint Antony (DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS) in the Eastern Desert, he was selected by the community of the clergy and the Coptic archons to succeed MARK VII at his death in 1769. His patriarchate proved to be one of the most miserable periods in Coptic history. On several occasions the patriarch had to flee from the injustice and extortions imposed on the Christians.
The tyranny of the Mamluk amirs was relentless as Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey decided to overthrow the yoke of the Supreme Porte in Constantinople and declare independence for Egypt. They imposed large taxes on the Christians. The sultan, ‘Abd al-Hamid (1774-1784), sent an army under the command of a new viceroy named Hasan Pasha to quell the civil war; he inflicted a heavy defeat on the rebellious Mamluks. But this did not alleviate the suffering and persecution of the native population in general and the Copts in particular. On the contrary, the new master proved to be even more rapacious than the preceding Mamluk amirs. He gave a freer hand to his conquering soldiers to abuse the Christians, and by his order they pillaged their houses and sold their property in public auctions. The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS reports that soldiers seized the wife of a notable Copt named IBRAHIM AL-JAWHARI, who had attained a high position under the rule of the Mamluks, and forced her to divulge the secret hiding places where her husband concealed his wealth. Consequently, all his property and money were confiscated.
The situation of the Christians was worsened by the outbreak of pestilence in 1773, and the rate of daily deaths in Cairo alone reached 1,000 souls. The ravages of this plague extended to the highest authorities, and the viceroy Isma‘il Bey succumbed to it. His successors ruled jointly during this national disaster. In these circumstances, the fugitive Mamluk beys, Ibrahim and Murad, returned to Cairo and resumed their ravages amongst the Copts on the eve of Napoleon's French Expedition to Egypt in 1798. According to the contemporary historian al-Jabarti, during the year of the return of Mamluk rule, the Nile inundation fell below its annual level, so that famine was added to the tyranny and injustice of the rulers of the land.
Under John XVIII, the Copts who rose to any heights in the administration of Murad and Ibrahim Bey became easy prey for their successors, and the sum of 75,000 gold pieces was extorted from them. The poll tax of a gold dinar per person was doubled for Copts and Jews alike. According to al-Jabarti, all business came to a standstill. The roads were destroyed, there was no security anywhere, and what remained after the ravages of the amirs fell prey to the bedouins who marauded the countryside. At the close of the eighteenth century, Egypt was perhaps in a worse condition than it had ever been since Roman rule with industries paralyzed, commerce ruined, and the country relapsed into semibarbarism and dire poverty. A new chapter had to be opened, and this was the task of Bonaparte and the French. This is how the patriarchate of John XVIII reached its unhappy conclusion in 1796.
AZIZ S. ATIYA
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