The ninety-third patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1479-1482). John acceded to the throne of Saint Mark after an interregnum of about two years, during which the bishops, the clergy, and the archons could not settle on a suitable candidate for this high ecclesiastical office.
John was a native of the city of Naqadah in Upper Egypt and was a monk of the Monastery of Our Lady, known as DAYR AL- MUHARRAQ, when his candidacy was approved. We do not know when he joined the monastery, nor do we know anything about his secular life before he took the monastic vow.
He was a contemporary of the Burji Mamluk sultan al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’itbay (1468-1495), under whose rule the Copts lived in relative peace and security.
Perhaps the most significant event of John’s reign was the receipt of an epistle from the pope of Rome, Sixtus IV (1471-1484), almost a quarter of a century after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS (Vol. 3, pt. 3, Arabic text p. 159; trans., p. 274) makes a special mention of this papal overture without detailing its contents, but states that the Coptic patriarchal response was a lengthy one in three brochures. John XII summarizes their purport in two major points: (1) the elimination of contradictory behavior in matters of doctrine; and (2) the establishment of peace and conciliation among all Christian sects. In this way, the patriarch preserved the old Coptic tradition of independent thinking.
On the international scene, the amicable relations with the Ethiopian empire were renewed when an Abyssinian embassy arrived with precious gifts for the Sultan, who met their delegations with all the honors accorded to friendly nations. Egypt needed to secure its trade routes in the Red Sea. The request by the Abyssinians for the appointment of a Coptic archbishop was granted, and the patriarch consecrated his ecclesiastical representative of Egypt at the Abyssinian court.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- . The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925.
- Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ibn Iyas. Bada’i‘ al-Zuhur fi Waqa’i‘ al- Duhur, 5 vols. Cairo, 1960.
SUBHI Y. LABIB