The 104th patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1718-1726). A native of Asyut, Peter decided in his early youth to retire to the ancient monastery of Saint Paul (DAYR ANBA BULA) in the Eastern Desert. There he took the monastic vow and remained as an ascetic for some years, after which his predecessor made him a presbyter, and then elevated him to the rank of abbot of his monastery. At the death of JOHN XVI, the fame of his sanctity reached the valley where one archon by the name of Lutfallah, the husband of the late patriarch’s niece, was instrumental in the promotion of his cause for succession to the throne of Saint Mark. Consequently, a delegation from Bush was commissioned to go to Saint Paul’s monastery to inform Peter VI of his selection as patriarch.
Due to his reticence in accepting this honor, Peter was brought to Cairo in chains, where he was consecrated patriarch in the church of Saint Mercurius (ABU SAYFAYN). It was a year of plenty owing to the inundation of the Nile, and the community of Copts feasted on the occasion, for it was a period of relative peace and security from the Mamluk tyranny that had prevailed in the valley. At the time, the patriarch appointed Athanasius I to the diocese of Jerusalem. His predecessor, Christodoulos I, was named archbishop of Ethiopia in response to a request of the king of that country.
In the meantime, Peter’s plan to visit Alexandria was interrupted by fighting between a governor named Isma‘il ibn Iwaz and another named Muhammad (Bey) Jarkas. Peter returned to his headquarters in Cairo, which was under the governorate of Rajab Pasha. Apparently Lutfallah, an archon of considerable wealth, had clandestinely reconstructed the dilapidated churches of Saint Michael and Saint Menas, without express permission from Rajab Pasha. This precipitated the governor’s wrath. However, friends of Lutfallah managed to appease the governor, and the good work was approved. Lutfallah was even able to add a number of cells to these constructions for poor people.
On the whole, we must assume that the reign of Peter VI was a period of relative calm during which the Copts enjoyed a fair measure of security, in contrast to the tempestuous and tyrannical Mamluk rule of other patriarchal reigns. In this atmosphere of peace, the patriarch was able to realize his visit to Alexandria and deposit a silver candelabra on the sanctuary of the Church of Saint Mark where he stayed for sixty days of celebration. The patriarch could do many good deeds with the help and support of Coptic archons such as Jirjis Abu Shihatah, a wealthy immigrant from the city of Abnub in Upper Egypt. It is known that Peter consecrated many presbyters and deacons without interference from the authorities. He died in a pestilence, after occupying the See of Saint Mark for more than eight years. He was buried in the Church of Saint Mercurius in Cairo.
- Butcher, E. L. The Story of the Church of Egypt, 2 vols. London, 1897.
- Fowler, M. Christian Egypt. London, 1901.
AZIZ S. ATIYA