Abraam of Fayoum

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Coptic Orthodox Cross
Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.
Coptic icon of St. Abraam, Friend of the Poor

St. Abraam (1829-1914 A.D.), the departed Bishop of Fayoum, Egypt, and "Friend of the Poor," is a well-known modern-day Coptic Orthodox saint.


The child Paul (Boulos) Gabriel was born in 1829 (1545 A.M.) in Calad, a village in Upper Egypt. His parents were righteous and loved God. They sent him to the church school. His teacher Raphael took care of him, taught him reading, writing, arithmetic, the Holy Scriptures and psalms, ecclesiastical hymns, and psalmody. He was very intelligent and eager to learn everything.

Rare photo of Anba Abraam (1829-1914 A.D.)
When he was eight years old, his mother became very ill, and a few weeks later died, leaving behind her child. As he loved prayers and psalms, he discovered in them how God can bless his life and fill all his heart. When he was 15 years old, he got famous among his mates; the priests recommended him to Anba (Abba) Youssab, the bishop of the diocese, who ordained him as a deacon during his visit to the village's church.

As he loved the life of contemplation of God, so he joined Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Monastery "El-Meharrak" in Assiut, Upper Egypt, at the time when Rev. Father Abdel-Malek was in charge of the monastery. He was a very decent, active person, who loved all the monks. They recommended him and he was tonsured a monk when he was 19 years old, in 1848. His new name was Rev. Paul El-Meharraki.

He was distinguished by his patience and self-control, and his interest in almsgiving. Anba Yakoubos, the Bishop, heard about him, he asked him to come to the "Bishop's house" and to remain with him. Rev. Paul worked day and night, and he changed the "Bishop's house" to a shelter for the poor.

His deep eagerness for contemplating God caused him to ask the bishop to leave for the monastery again after he spent four years helping the bishop. Then the bishop ordained him as a priest and allowed him to return to the monastery in 1863. At that time there was a problem regarding Father Abdel-Malek, who was in charge of the monastery, but Father Paul did not interfere with these problems. So the monks chose him (Paul) to be in charge of the monastery. He opened the doors of the monastery for poor people, also young men heard about him and came, asking him to teach them, and after a short time they had forty new monks.

(The late Anba Marcos, Bishop of Luxor, was ordained as a monk in 1870 at El-Meharrak Monastery and grew up under the leadership of Fr. Paul. Pope Kyrillos V chose him in 1876 to teach the new monks at El-Baramous Monastery (see below). He met his spiritual father again after five years, and remained with him until 1879, when he was consecrated a Bishop for Luxor. Up till now the people still remember much about his pure life, his holiness, deep love for praying, his modesty, and his special care about everyone, and about renewing the old churches and constructing new ones.)

As usual the devil was furious when he saw the monastery opened for the poor, and young people changed with love for Jesus Christ and continuous prayers, so he made some of the monks think that Fr. Paul was wasting the money of the monastery and they rebelled against him. In 1870, Fr. Paul was asked to leave the monastery after five years in charge of it. He went with four of his students to Cairo to meet Anba Marcos, Metropolitan of El-Behira, who was at that time the acting Pope. They were directed to go to the Monastery of Anba Bishoy at the Natroun-Valley in the western desert of Egypt, where they remained for a short period. Afterwards they went to the next-door El-Baramous Monastery in 1871. At that time the president of this monastery was Fr. John, who later became Pope Kyrillos V. He was so glad to receive them, and offered them a place to stay.

Fr. Paul devoted all his time to prayer and study, but his deep love for the poor people did not end. He loved the hostile Arabs (Bedouins) who were living in the area of the monastery and he shared with them everything he had, even his clothes.

Coptic icon of St. Abraam
In 1881, the Ethiopian Emperor, John Kassa, asked Pope Kyrillos V, to ordain a metropolitan and three bishops for the Ethiopian Empire, so he chose the four fathers who were accompanying Fr. Paul. At the same time, Anba Isaac, Metropolitan of the province of Fayoum and Giza, departed, then the four fathers asked the Pope to ordain their father as a bishop for that diocese. The Pope and the people of Fayoum became happy and joyful on that day for the ordination of their new bishop, Anba Abraam, in 1881. During his time, the Diocese of El-Fayoum became a great vine, in whose shadow the poor and rich sat with great delight.

When the Khedive Tawfik, Ruler of Egypt, visited El-Fayoum, they made a great lunch-party. Anba Abraam was sitting very near to the Khedive. He did not eat except salad, and when the Khedive asked him he answered that the day was Friday and Christians are to fast on all Fridays. Then he ordered that fruits be brought and asked Anba Abraam to meet him again. He went to meet him at the railway station before he left, and the Khedive welcomed him deeply saying to him "You are a blessed man..." The rulers and governers, even tyrannical ones, found rest in him, so the simple bishop's home became their rest place.

In the year 1893 he was seriously ill with his leg, such that doctors decided to perform surgery to cut off his leg. When one of his spiritual children told him, he smiled, as usual, and said "God will not let it happen. I am sure He will let them down!" After two months he recovered completely, and went out to the Church, praising God. The Bishop's house was very crowded. The people held the palm leaves and they were waving the olive branches with joy when they heard of his recovery.

Our blessed father Anba Abraam departed to Paradise on Thursday, June 9, 1914 (2 Baounah 1630 A.M.) after sunset, i.e., the onset of June 10, 1914. More than ten thousand persons attended his funeral, both Christians and Moslems (twenty five thousand persons in some accounts). But the history of Anba Abraam has not ended. In every Egyptian home there is still a lot to be told about him, for he was truly a God-loving man. The saint's body is preserved at the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of El-Fayoum in Egypt.

In 1964, the Holy Synod of Coptic Orthodox Bishops decided to add his name to the saints mentioned in the Holy Mass, and many Coptic Orthodox churches around the world today are named after him.


It happened that Anba Abraam received furniture for the episcopate. He refused to use it, and asked the servant to put it in storage. When a woman came to him complaining that her daughter's engagement would not result in a wedding, because they didn't have money to buy furniture for her and her future husband, Anba Abraam told the servant to show her the new furniture, and let her take what she needed. Some of the people complained to Pope Kyrillos V about giving away the furniture. Afterwards, there was a collection to build a new house of the episcopate. Anba Abraam gave that money also to the poor and the needy: another complaint. The Pope summoned him, and he went without delay, though he was an old man, with poor eyesight. On his arrival, he was rushed in to see the Pope in his suite. It was a summer afternoon, a ray of the sun through a hole in the shade of the window was mistaken by Anba Abraam as a rope (for hanging clothes, which was a habit in those days to install ropes for hanging clothes). Anba Abraam threw his "farageyia" (coat) on it, and it stayed there! The Pope, seeing how the Lord is working wonders to support and not embarrass this saint on earth, changed the purpose of the call, and instead inquired about his health and gave him 15,000 Egyptian Pounds to build a new house for the episcopate. When the people came back to see the Pope, he scolded them for their lack of faith, concluding, "How can I argue with a man of God who was able to hang his coat on a ray of the sun?" The new house of the episcopate was not built in Anba Abraam's lifetime. The money was again used to help the poor.

Countless other miracles occurred during St. Abraam's earthly life and after his departure to Heaven. Miracles also continue to occur to this day through the intercession of St. Abraam.


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