The 109th patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1809-1852).
He was born at al-Jawli, a small town near Manfalut in the province of Asyut, hence his cognomen al-Jawli. He entered Saint Antony’s monastery (DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS) at an early age, and was later selected to become the metropolitan in Ethiopia. For some reason his formal consecration was postponed and, instead, he was raised to the rank of bishop general and remained in Cairo to assist MARK VIII (1796-1809). When the latter died shortly afterward, Peter was immediately chosen to succeed him, and was enthroned. He was endowed with the qualities of a true man of God.
Often likened to John the Baptist, he was humble, patient, self-denying, simple in attire, and frugal in meals. He led a life of total renunciation, concentrating on the study of theology and church history. He wrote a number of tracts expounding the position of the Coptic church on the subjects of Holy Communion, the nature of Christ, and other treatises where he admonished those who sought conversion to other creeds or faiths mainly for material gains.
Peter’s reign was marked by a number of interesting miraculous episodes that have been accepted by the Coptic community of the faithful as true occurrences in spite of their ostensibly legendary nature. A few of these episodes are worthy of enumerating to indicate the depth of the religious temperament of the Coptic faithful.
- The Nile flood failed for one year, and people asked the patriarch to pray for the resumption of the inundation. Consequently, after celebrating Holy Communion, Peter washed the sacramental utensils and sprinkled that water into the river, whereupon the Nile water speedily began to rise. A similar episode is recorded in the eighth century during the reign of KHA’IL I (744-767).
- During the reign of the first khedive, MUHAMMAD ‘ALI, his son Ibrahim Pasha was governor of Syria, and he is said to have summoned Peter to Jerusalem and challenged him to prove that a heavenly spark illuminates the Holy Sepulcher at Easter. After a three-day fast and prayer, the Coptic patriarch celebrated Holy Communion in the presence of Ibrahm Pasha and the Greek Orthodox patriarch, when a powerful light flooded the tomb of Christ.
- An envoy from the Imperial Russian Court paid Peter a visit for the purpose of offering the czar’s protection to the Coptic community. With Peter’s intuitive acumen, he retorted that the Copts would rather be protected not by an earthly power but by the Immortal One. This episode brought him great favor with the reigning khedive.
- The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS relates the story of a daughter of Muhammad ‘Ali, Zuhrah Hanim, who was married to Ahmad Bey the Defterdar. She is said to have been possessed by an unclean spirit and suffered from fits of convulsion that the physicians failed to treat. Finally, Muhammad ‘Ali resorted to Peter, who summoned the saintly bishop of Minufiyyah, Anba Sarapamon. The bishop went to the palace, prayed on a basin of water, sprinkled it on the face of the sick lady while commanding the evil spirit in the name of Jesus to depart from her, and she at once recovered. The khedive, in recognition of that feat, offered the bishop a reward of 4,000 gold pieces, which the bishop refused to accept. When the khedive insisted, the bishop took only a few gold coins that he distributed to the guards as he left. However, his request of reinstating Coptic state employees was granted.
Peter was praised in the History of the Patriarchs: “he was a lover of studying in the Divine Books and assiduous in teaching the people; not a lover of coveting things, long-suffering, self-abused, humble, wise, a possessor of great sagicity and lofty intelligence and eminent direction of his flock.”
- Kamil Salih Nakhlah, and Farid Kamil. Khulasat Tarikh al-Ummah al-Qibtiyyah. Cairo, 1922.