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Monday, August 29, 2011

A Fascinating Journey Into the Patriarchal Archives

The team who assisted me throughout my journey into the Patriarchal Archives.

Hello again,

Yes, it has been a while since I have been active on my blog. I will try and be more active in this field.

I propose to do two things:

1. To offer a daily short spiritual message that I will also post on Twitter.

2. To occasionally update you on my research on Archdeacon Habib Jirjis as I know that some of you are interested to know more about him and his work.

I will begin today with something that I am very excited about and that is the Patriarchal Archives in Cairo.

When I was in Cairo at the end of last year I spent a few short hours at the Patriarchal archives. I was searching for any possible material on Habib Jirjis or on education etc. I found a few files with some documents that I digitised. I did not hold much hope that there is any more beneficial material there and left disappointed. During this trip to Egypt I asked myself, "does it make sense that there is no more information in the archives on Habib Jirjis?" I set myself the task of discovering if there is anything more substantial on this subject. 

I am very grateful to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III who gave me access to the archives and I am indebted to him for his support and spiritual guidance. I am also thankful to His Grace Bishop Youannes for facilitating the process of such an access.

From my previous visit I had seen hand written bound minutes and decrees of The Lay Millet Council (Majlis Milli). I knew that Habib Jirjis was a member of this council for several terms and that it is inevitable that issues on Coptic education would have been discussed. These bound minutes and decrees were organised into annual volumes. I thought to myself if there is useful information in these volumes and nothing else it would be useful to copy them. I did not hold hope of finding anything else.

So, I set out the first morning with a dear friend Ezzat Bushra who is a professional translator and headed for the archives. We went through the volumes and chose those that are relevant to digitise. The next morning I organised with a photographer to digitise those volumes. It was going to be a few days of work. On the third day we were nearly finished with the digitisation of those volumes and yet something inside me was telling me, "Could this be it? Habib Jirjis who seemed to me to be so organised did not leave anything else about his work for future generations to study? There must be more, this could not be all that is in this huge archives." 

So, we asked the question again, "What do these archives consist of? What else can be found here?" Then the archivist said, "Oh there is a section here on schools." It was at that moment that I could not believe what was just said. I responded by saying, "Did you just say schools???" He replied, "Yes, here is a section concerning schools." At that point in a very humble way, I felt like Howard Carter when he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. A rush of excitement and joy overcame me as I felt I am about to discover a wealth of material that would be pertinent to my dissertation. Were these files of any use? Did these boxes really have any relevant material? What was actually in these boxes that had not been opened for over sixty years? Stay tuned for the next blog in which I will discuss my findings.

I would love to hear any feedback from you.

God bless.


  1. What an extremely beneficial expedition you have undertaken! Indeed, more research must be done on this highly fascinating modern icon of holiness. I look forward to the subsequent posts and pray that Your Grace's research bears much fruit.

  2. I never knew that there were places like that and now that i know that there is i am dying to visit them. i have always been interested in the history of the church and also in theology. hopefully what you found in those archives will benefit you and us greatly