CYRIL IV (1816-1861)
A Patriarch, reformer. He was the 110th patriarch of the Coptic Church (1854-1861). He was born Dawud in 1816 at Nag‘ Abu Zaqali, near Akhmim in Upper Egypt. In 1838, he entered the Monastery of St. Antony at the age of 22 and became its abbot only two years later. He then opened a school for the monks, as well as for local children at Bush, where the monastery possessed land. In 1851, Pope Peter entrusted him with a delicate task in Ethiopia that lasted 16 months.
After the death of Patriarch Peter in 1852, Dawud was raised to the post of a general metropolitan bishop. In 1854, he was consecrated Patriarch Cyril IV. His short pontificate of about seven years marked a Coptic renaissance that was visible in the cultural movement within the Coptic Church and its awakening from five centuries of sluggishness under Mamluk and Ottoman rule.
Cyril’s reform is indeed a turning point in the history of the Coptic Church, as it paved the way for the renewal and expansion that continue to the present generations. Cyril IV devoted his efforts toward education. He founded modern schools at the patriarchate, at Haret al-Saqqayin, and at Darb al-Wasi‘ in Cairo. One of those schools was for girls, which was a very progressive step at that time. He paid great attention to the education of the clergy and conducted regular theological discussions for them. The patriarch imported the second printing press from Austria, and he sent four Coptic apprentices to be trained at the government press.
He erected new churches and renovated the cathedral in Cairo. The management of the Church’s property and finance were reorganized. In 1855, the Copts were freed from the poll tax that had been imposed on them since the Arab conquest of Egypt. Khedive Said, the ruler of Egypt, sent the patriarch to Ethiopia to undertake a dangerous mission related to the borders between the two countries. He spent 18 months there and accomplished his mission successfully. In 1861, Cyril was invited by the khedive and died very shortly after that meeting. It is said that Cyril was poisoned.