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Our father among the saints John the Merciful was patriarch of Alexandria between 611 and 619. The main source for his biography is a Life written by Leontius of Neapolis. John was born in Amathus on Cyprus c. 550 to the patrician Epiphanius, a governor of the island. He married and had children, but was a widower when he was called to become patriarch of Alexandria in 611, becoming the fifth Chalcedonian bishop of Alexandria to bear that name.

John's remarkable almsgiving or mercy (eleemosyne in Greek) in distributing the vast wealth of the patriarchate of Alexandria to the poor and afflicted gave him his epithet of Merciful. His care was not limited to his own flock in Alexandria, but extended to the people of Palestine in their sufferings.

He was forced to flee Alexandria by the Persian invasion of Egypt in 619. Returning to Cyprus, he died soon thereafter. A few years later much of John's work of reconciliation with the Non-Chalcedonians of Egypt was undone by the violent persecution instituted by Cyrus, who was both his successor as patriarch as well as prefect of Alexandria. John is commemorated in the Orthodox Church on November 12.

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