PHILOTHEUS, sixty-third patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (979-1003). Philotheus was a monk of the Monastery of Saint Macarius (DAYR ANBA MAQAR) and a disciple to an older saintly monk by the name of Yuhanna. After the death of Pope Abraham ibn Zar‘ah, there was an interregnum of six months, during which the bishops together with the clergy and the archons of the city of Misr (Cairo) deliberated on the subject of a new candidate for the patriarchate. They were informed about the suitability of a monk by the name of Yuhanna and consequently called upon him to appear before them. When he came, accompanied by his disciple Philotheus, they found him a much older man than they had thought and not suitable for the heavy burdens of the office. But his disciple Philotheus seemed to be a suitable candidate. So they consecrated him patriarch, and that was during the reign of the Fatimid caliph Nizar Abu al-Mansur al-‘Aziz Billah (975-996). The peace and security established in the country during his predecessor's accession to power persisted in the time of al-‘Aziz.
However, there was a Christian clan by the name of Banu al-Muti that was disenchanted with the practice of nominating undeserving candidates for bishoprics in exchange for providing simony (CHEIRITONIA) to the patriarch. They seized the occasion of the accession of Philotheus to request an end to the sale of episcopal seats.
The patriarch lived in Mahallat Daniyal after his election. At that time, the scribe of the Synod was Maqarah (Macarius), bishop of Upper Minuf. Maqarah's brother Mina was bishop of Tanah and probably of Damru, as well. When Mina died, Maqarah advised the patriarch to appoint a new bishop of Tanah and to move the patriarch's seat to the rich bishopric of Damru, to the residence of Mina.
The rest of the biography of Philotheus in the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS consists of a legendary story. It concerns the conversion of a certain Muslim, al-Wadih ibn Abi al-Raja’, to Christianity. Apparently, Ibn Raja’ came from a religious Muslim family and was a bigot until he stumbled upon a group of soldiers building a great bonfire to burn the body of a decapitated Muslim convert to Christianity. When the fire subsided, Ibn Raja’ found the body unburned and intact. Having witnessed this miracle, he decided to become a Christian. His later baptism is woven into a lengthy episode of miraculous occurrences. Ultimately, Ibn Raja’ became a monk by the name of Paul (Bulus) in Scetis. Ibn Raja’ was acquainted with SAWIRUS IBN AL-MUQAFFA‘, bishop of al-Ashmunayn, whose twenty works are mentioned in the History of the Patriarchs. It is stated that Ibn Raja’ himself wrote two books: one on confession, the other a commentary entitled "Rare Episodes of Exegetes." But neither of them has been identified in the manuscript repositories.
The patriarchate of Philotheus occurred during the reigns of al-‘Aziz and al-HAKIM BI-AMR ALLAH (996-1021). Perhaps the most important international event during his papacy was the appointment of Daniyal, a monk of the monastery of Saint Macarius, as archbishop for the diocese of Ethiopia.
The archdeacon of Alexandria, Surur ibn Jirja, relates a story that the patriarch's tongue was benumbed during a liturgy owing to a vision which left him speechless. Anba Murqus, bishop of Bahnasa, had to take his place while he was transported to the house of Abu Malih ibn Qutin, an archon of Alexandria, where he died on 12 Hatur. This was after a reign of twenty-four years and eight months, during which he seems to have amassed immense wealth, which was divided among his four brothers, contrary to church tradition.
SUBHI Y. LABIB
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