Joachim I of Alexandria
Little is known of Patr. Joachim's early life other than he was born about 1448. As a young man he served as a monk at the Monastery of St. Catherine. At Mount Sinai he found it so tranquil that in later life he spent long periods there in its tranquility. He was elected Patriarch of Alexandria in 1486 when he was 38 years old and Egypt was under harsh Arab rule. After the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks relations with the government improved greatly. In 1517, the Sultan Selim I issued a Firman to Patr. Joachim safeguarding all the patriarchal privileges and guaranteeing that the Patriarchate of Alexandria would be allowed to perform its duties in peace, ending the persecutions of the Arabic rulers.
Even though Patr. Joachim was not a man of wide learning, through his leadership he succeeded in raising the status of the Patriarchate, extracting it from the obscurity to which Arab mis-management had consigned it, creating better conditions, and making the most of what the Patriarchate could contribute to solving the problems it shared with the other churches of the Eastern Mediterranean, that is the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch.
He continued his strong attachment to the monastery at Sinai even after becoming patriarch of Alexandria. During those years the Patriarchate of Alexandria held jurisdiction over the monastery. In 1529, Patr. Joachim built a chapel there, dedicated to St. Michael. However, the Patriarch of Jerusalem also had claims to the monastery. During a synod at Constantinople in 1544 Joachim finally conceded and agreed that subsequent Archbishops of Sinai would be enthroned by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and, thus, jurisdiction over the monastery was transferred to Jerusalem.
As the already poor financial situation for the Church of Alexandria continued the get worse, Patr. Joachim looked to the Tsar of Russia for assistance which proved to have always responded positively to the pleas of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. In 1556, Patr. Joachim sent a letter to Tsar Ivan IV of Russia, asking him to provide material assistance for St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai. Having received vivid pictures of the poverty that afflicted the Patriarchate, the assistance given by the Russians helped in restoring the churches and monasteries and did much to embellish the interiors of churches in Alexandria and Cairo. The wealth of treasures, the icons and the holy vessels, kept in the Patriarchate of Alexandria today and adorning its churches are testimony to the extent of the assistance that the Russians rendered to the Church of St. Mark.
Patr. Joachim maintained his correspondence with the Russians through which he able to intervened effectively in the case of Maximus the Greek who had been imprisoned in Russia. Patr. Joachim had the courage to write to Tsar Ivan IV and plead for the release of Maximus. His letter included the following: "For that reason, we pray Your Majesty to release Maximus, monk of Mount Athos, on receiving this letter, and to allow him to go wherever he may please, and in particular to Mt. Athos, where he was tonsured".
Joachim I of Alexandria
|Patriarch of Alexandria