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Sarjiyus, Malati - Coptic Wiki

SARJIYUS, MALATI (1883-1964)

An Egyptian clergyman better known as Qummus Sarjiyus. He was born in Jirja, in Upper Egypt, with a long line of ancestors behind him. Sarjiyus joined the CLERICAL COLLEGE in 1899 and graduated with a distinguished record that qualified him to teach in the same college. His revolutionary tendencies, which characterized his entire career, had their beginnings at an early age. Feeling the need for radical reforms at the Clerical College, Sarjiyus provoked students to go on strike.

In an attempt to discipline Sarjiyus, Patriarch CYRIL V (1874-1927) summoned him, ordered him to get married as a prerequisite to joining the clergy, and ordained him priest for Mallawi’s church in Upper Egypt in 1904. His new assignment as clergyman did not prevent him from his campaign for reforming the Coptic church. Only three months after his ordination, Sarjiyus was tried by a board and sent into retirement. Penniless, he returned to his native town of Jirja.

Three years later, Bishop Macarius of Asyut (later Patriarch MACARIUS III) summoned Sarjiyus and appointed him priest for the Asyut church. In 1912 the bishop of Khartoum and the Coptic Society in the expressed a desire to profit from the services of Sarjiyus. While in Khartoum (1912-1914), Sarjiyus edited a weekly organ. His critical editorials were full of revolutionary views. Whereas Bishop Abraam of the Fayyum hailed the magazine and backed Sarjiyus, the patriarchate in Cairo put him on trial on sixty counts, all revolving around his editorials. When the Council failed to induce Sarjiyus to plead guilty, the whole trial was called off, and he was allowed to return to the Sudan, where his popularity increased, not only among Copts but also among Muslims.

Sarjiyus’ popularity in the was resented by the British, who decided to deport him. He thus returned in May 1915 to his native town once again, but he had no church there. His devoted Sudanese congregation did not fail him and continued to remit his salary until he built his own church in the popular quarter of Qulali in Cairo. Multitudes of Copts and Muslims crowded the church and nearby streets to listen to his revolutionary sermons.

When the Egyptian national leader SA‘D ZAGHLUL was arrested by the British, Sarjiyus headed toward al-Azhar Mosque, where he was given a tumultuous welcome by the grand shaykh and Muslim worshippers. The first non-Muslim ever to mount the pulpit of the thousand-year-old mosque, Sarjiyus continued for fifty-nine consecutive days to deliver speeches in which he championed national unity behind the leader and the national cause of independence. His caustic speeches at the Mosque of Ibn Tulun and the Coptic church of Fajjalah, a popular quarter of Cairo, resulted in his banishment by the British to Rafah in the Peninsula. His orations won him the epithets of al-Azhar, Orator of the Revolution, and Orator of Egypt, the last bestowed by Sa‘d Zaghlul.

In 1920, Sarjiyus resumed his bid for reforming the church and challenged the patriarch. This prompted a new trial before the Holy Synod that ended in a judgment rendered in absentia that defrocked, excommunicated, and banished Sarjiyus to his native town.

In flagrant defiance of the judgment, Sarjiyus proceeded to his favorite church in Qulali. He continued to preach until late August 1921, when the church was forcibly appropriated by the patriarchate, and Sarjiyus was expelled. Six months later, Sarjiyus managed to rent a hall in the nearby quarter of Fajjalah, and forthwith, multitudes filled the entire hall.

Following a reconciliation with the new patriarch, JOHN XIX (1928-1942), Sarjiyus was appointed religious guide by the Coptic COMMUNITY COUNCIL in 1935. During the years 1930-1942, he edited a weekly newspaper published in Cairo.

In 1944, Sarjiyus was chosen by Patriarch Macarius III (1944-1945) to act as deputy to the patriarchate. In this capacity, he convened a conference for all heads of denominations in a bid for unity. This was one of his greatest achievements.

In 1952, following a rift between Patriarch YUSAB II (1946-1956) and Sarjiyus, the latter was again defrocked and excommunicated. Between then and 1956, he was subjected to confinement at home by the state.

At the time of his death in 1964, Sarjiyus was still banned by the Coptic church. At an impressive funeral, forced their way to Saint Mark’s Cathedral for memorial prayers. In the face of this massive demonstration, CYRIL VI (1959-1971) rescinded the excommunication order as an act of rehabilitation to this dedicated reformer.


  • Jama‘at al-Ummah al-Qibtiyyah. Al-Wa‘y al-Qibti. Cairo, 1965.