COSMAS I, forty-fourth patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (730- 731) (feast day: 30 Ba’unah). He was a native of the town of Bana, near Samannud in the Gharbiyyah Province. Little is known about his secular life before he took the monastic vow in the wilderness of Anba Maqar.
Cosmas had a monastic life distinguished by sanctity, humility, and self-denial. When the Coptic archons unanimously decided to nominate him for the patriarchate, he was reticent to accept their invitation and protested that he was unworthy of occupying the throne of Saint Mark. Nevertheless, the community of the faithful forced him to accede to their wishes, and he was consequently consecrated patriarch.
His accession, however, came at a time when the political and economic circumstances of the Umayyad empire were precarious, and this had dire repercussions for the Coptic community in Egypt. In spite of the lenient position of Caliph Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik (724-743), who issued a special circular to his agents in al-Fustat (Cairo) not to pressure their subjects and to permit the church legally to pursue its tradition without disturbance in conformity with the COVENANT OF ‘UMAR, the governors of the country did not waiver in imposing economic sanctions beyond the normal KHARAJ (community tax), not only on the Copts in general but also on the church and even the monasteries. Cosmas had no way to ease the hardships of the imposts except by common prayers to fortify the morale of the community, without incurring the use of force that had marked the reign of his predecessor, Alexander II. Thus, his short reign of fifteen months was concluded peacefully in spite of the economic hardships.
SUBHI Y. LABIB
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