The 103rd patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1676-1718).
He succeeded MATTHEW IV (1660-1675), originally a monk of DAYR AL-BARAMUS. As a native of the old city of Tukh al- Nasara or Tukh Dalakah his secular name before taking the monastic vow at DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS was Ibrahim al- Tukhi. He was a man of vast theological knowledge and he was devoted to the service of his church during adverse internal events and external plotting that persisted throughout his reign of forty-two years.
He restored the use of unction with holy oil (CHRISM) at the office of baptism, which had been interrupted for two hundred years. He insisted that infant baptism should be carried out on the eighth day from the child’s birth, though he permitted male baptism up to forty days to enable a mother to present herself at the altar. He opposed baptism in homes, as did the Latins.
In his days, the patriarchal residence was built in HARIT AL-RUM, thus replacing the older one at HARIT ZUWAYLAH. He succeeded in lifting the tax impost imposed on the church through the meditation of Mu‘allim Lutfallah, a notable Copt who approached the sultan with substantial gifts until he secured his wish.
At the end of the seventeenth century, the church witnessed severe hardships when an anti-Christian revolt broke out at Bairam one Friday, when Muslim rebels attacked Coptic homes and properties. Thousands died as a result of famine and the spread of plague. During these events, the pope stood by his people, infusing them with faith and fortitude. In 1710, war broke out between Turkey and Russia, necessitating the recruitment of Egyptians for the Turkish army. At the same time, the civil war that flared up in Egypt resulted in Christian persecutions abated only by the rise of the Mamluk amir Isma‘il Bey, who established peace and order in the country.
Externally, the church suffered from the tide of foreign missionaries. Catholic missionaries invaded Upper Egypt and attempted to proselytize the native Copts. Pope John worked hard to recover converts who had been sent to Rome and tried to use them for the glory of the Orthodox faith.
The French commissioner M. de Maillet joined hands with Catholic missionaries by recruiting children of good Coptic families for Catholic schools and for educational missions to France. The Catholic patriarch, Cyril Maqar, also took an active part in these movements, which threatened the Coptic community with depletion of its intelligentsia. But thanks to John’s unflinching determination and hard work among the community, the efforts of the Catholics were foiled.
On the Abyssinian front, Jesuit priests were active in the introduction of misunderstandings between the Ethiopian church and its mother Coptic church, in the hope of converting the Abyssinians to Catholicism and Roman obedience. Perhaps the last serious attempt to use the Jesuits in this pursuit came to pass during John’s patriarchate. In 1706 Louis XIV sent a physician named du Roule to head an Abyssinian mission to Ethiopia via the Sudan, where it was intercepted at Sennar by the Muslim ruler. Members of the mission were seized and killed. Thus, paradoxically, Ethiopian orthodoxy was saved by a Muslim.
- Butcher, E. L. The Story of the Church of Egypt, 2 vols. London, 1897.
- Butler, A. Arab Conquest of Egypt. Oxford, 1902. Fowler, M. Christian Egypt. London, 1901.
- Trossen, J.-P. Les Relations du patriarche copte Jean XVI avec Rome (1676-1718). Luxembourg, 1948.