CYRIL IV, 110th Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1854-1861). He was born Dawud Tumas Bashut in 1816 at Naj‘ Abu Zaqali, near
Akhmim in Upper Egypt. At the age of twenty-two he entered St. Antony's monastery (DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS), becoming its abbot at the age of twenty-four by virtue of his good character and charitable disposition. Throughout his life he displayed a deep love for learning and keen enthusiasm to improve the condition of monasteries and churches, as well as a great interest in the laity, which later earned for him the title "Cyril the Father of Reform." He was brought to the attention of PETER VII, who appreciated his outstanding qualities.
In 1851 reports of friction and dissent between the Ethiopian clergy and the Coptic Metropolitan "Anba Salama" were received by the Patriarch, who was requested to intervene in person. As the journey was too arduous for him, he delegated Father Dawud for
this delicate task. His sojourn in Ethiopia extended to eighteen months, and he was able to achieve some success. But before he could finally accomplish his mission he was recalled by the Patriarch who had suddenly fallen ill. Two and a half months before Father Dawud arrived in Cairo on 17 July 1852, the Patriarch had already passed away, having recommended Father Dawud to succeed him.
Father Dawud's absence in Ethiopia and the lack of news about him led to a split of opinion among the clergy. Some members supported him, but others were in favor of appointing the bishop of Akhmim. When Father Dawud eventually appeared in Cairo, the
majority agreed to submit his name to the khedive Abbas I for ratification. The latter, however, was in the habit of consulting fortune-tellers and astrologers before committing himself to any important decision, and in this case he was strongly warned, at his
risk, against approving Father Dawud. The situation reached an impasse as both sections of the community stuck to their positions.
Two months later they agreed to a recommendation made by the Armenian Bishop in Cairo, to promote Father Dawud to the rank of
Metropolitan of Cairo as a conciliatory measure, for a probationary period, after which he would be elevated to the Patriarchate, should he prove himself capable of shouldering that high responsibility. Final agreement as to his suitability was reached fourteen months later, and approval was secured from Khedive Abbas. He assumed his responsibilities as Patriarch in the summer of 1854, on 11 Ba’unah 1570 A.M.
Cyril IV now devoted all his energies toward implementing a radical reform program. His name became synonymous with educational reform and the introduction of modern schools. He established a new school for boys and another school for girls (a daring and revolutionary step at the time) in 1855 at al-Darb al- Wasi‘ district in Cairo, two others at Harat al-Saqqayin in the district of ‘Abdin also in Cairo, a school at Mansurah and another under St. Antony's monastery in the valley at BUSH. He paid special attention to the teaching of Arabic, Coptic, and foreign languages. He put the curricula under his own personal supervision and visited the schools regularly to encourage both teachers and students. He was convinced that reform can be attained only through a sound system of education.
With equal far-sightedness, Cyril IV realized the necessity of having a printing press at the Patriarchate to supply schools with the
right textbooks at a reasonable price, and also to reprint the precious manuscripts that were stored in various churches and monasteries. He therefore gave orders for the purchase of a press from Europe, and obtained permission from Khedive SA‘ID to admit four Coptic students as apprentices at the Bulaq Government Press. They were to receive their salaries from the patriarch himself.
It is related that when the press arrived in Alexandria, Cyril IV was away in St. Antony's monastery, but he asked his Vicar to welcome the arrival of the press at the railway station with an organized and jubilant procession to the seat of the Patriarchate. The
clergy would take part and the deacons sing. Some persons, who could not understand the significance of such a reception, belittled
the whole matter and criticized the Patriarch. He told them that had he been present at the time, he would have danced in the procession as David had danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant.
In September 1856 he was called upon once again to undertake an important official mission to Ethiopia on behalf of Khedive Sa‘id,
who delegated him to negotiate a solution to the thorny problem of the two countries' common borders. Emperor Theodorus gave the patriarch a warm welcome, but very shortly afterwards news came that Sa‘id was threatening to invade Ethiopia. The Emperor could not but think that the Coptic Patriarch was the cat's paw in a joint conspiracy. He flew into a rage and commanded his men to burn the Patriarch alive, and only the intervention of the Queen saved his life. The emperor was eventually convinced of the patriarch's innocence and his good intentions, and set him at liberty. After eighteen months' absence Cyril arrived back in Egypt. As soon as he set foot on Egyptian soil he knelt down and kissed the ground in gratitude to God for his safe return. On 13 February 1858, the Copts came out to welcome their beloved Patriarch back to Cairo. Cyril IV resumed his effort during the rest of his pontificate to consolidate the ties between the Coptic Church and other Orthodox churches. He built new churches and restored the cathedral building in Cairo. He took the restoration as an opportunity to teach his people a lesson on the sin of excessive attachment to religious pictures and images. He even collected a number of icons from old church buildings and burnt them in the presence of a large crowd.
Cyril IV died in 1861 at the relatively early age of forty-five. The events surrounding his death are rather obscure, and some sources contend that he was poisoned. Nevertheless, he is remembered as one of the great patriarchs of the Coptic Church.
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