June 10

Abraham of al-Fayyum




On June 10, 1914 Abraham, bishop of Al-Fayyum, died at the age of eighty-five, after a thirty-three year episcopal ministry and almost seventy years of monastic life.
A native of the Coptic province of Al-Minya, he was baptized Joseph. At the age of eighteen he entered the monastery of the Virgin of al-Muharraq, near Asyut. He stood out because of his extreme compassion for the poor, which became the evangelical constant of his life. At the age of thirty-seven he became his monastery's abbot. From that time on many monks asked to become his disciples, and the community grew steadily. But as its numbers increased, tensions at-Muharraq also increased, and Joseph was forced to leave the monastery after he was accused of giving away its wealth to the poor.
He and four brothers were welcomed by the monastery of al-Baramus in Wadi al-Natrun. The local abbot, who had become patriarch, noted the spiritual integrity of Joseph and his companions and ordained all five of them bishops. It was thus that Joseph became, in 1881, bishop Abraham of Al-Fayyum. As pastor, he felt called first and foremost to serve the poor, without discriminating between Christians and those of other faiths. Abraham's own lifestyle became an itinerary of self-abasement: he refused to sit at a different table from that of the "last" and the outcast, and he rejected all of the exterior and worldly signs of distinction that are traditionally accorded to bishops in almost all of the churches in recognition of their dignity.
At his death, an immense crowd of Christians and Muslims rushed to give him a last farewell.