Monk Basilius al-Maqari: God is love and He loves all humanity

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Thu, 2021-04-01
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The difference between the Easter dates of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Western churches is this year very large. Easter is celebrated in the West on April 4 while Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 2. The different dates are the consequence of different traditions. In the West the Gregorian calendar is used while the Coptic Orthodox stick to the Julian calendar. The Anglican Church in Egypt has followed the Western calendar but last year Archbishop Mouneer [Munīr] asked the priest of St. John the Baptist Church to follow the Coptic Orthodox calendar since the Anglican Church in Egypt is very small while the Coptic Orthodox are the dominant Christian denomination. Last year this was possible because there was only one week difference but this year the Easter dates are one month apart. Different Easter dates are a headache in countries where Christians of different traditions live together. Monk Basilius al-Maqari [Bāsīliyyūs al-Maqārī] was a proponent of one Easter date for all churches. Sadly, traditionalist refuse to shift from one date to another and thus the Coptic Orthodox Pope would risk a schism in his own church if he would agree to a different date.


With Easter Christians celebrate that God is stronger than death, the ultimate evidence that God loves the world. This is definitely the most important celebration in the worldwide Christian church.


Monk Bāsīliyyūs is no longer with us to celebrate Easter. On January 1, 2021, he passed away, 87 years old. Monk Bāsīliyyūs, as he preferred to be called, was a major authority in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Fr. Bāsīliyyūs al-Maqārī,​

source of photo (


I have known monk Bāsīliyyūs since the mid-1990s. He had a major influence on Arab-West Report. From the moment I came to know him till the last day we met he had critique on Pope Shenouda [Shinūda] (1923-2012) and people loyal to him. Monk Bāsīliyyūs found Pope Shinūda too political and with his political innovations corrupted the church. Monk Bāsīliyyūs indeed used the word “corruption” in relation to pope Shinūda frequently. He was very harsh in speaking about the pope but always called for caution in writing about the pope since he had no intention to become the center of a media discussion.


Monk Bāsīliyyūs appreciated the PhD thesis of Prof. Dr. Wolfram Reiss about the Sunday School movement but also stated that Western scholars very often refer to written texts only but in understanding the church in Egypt also personal relations and talks are needed. Monk Bāsīliyyūs called Pope Shinūda a “political agitator” who was a member of the al-Umma al-Qibṭiyya before joining the Sunday School movement since this would better suit his ambitions to become Pope.


My article for Christianity Today describes the differences between Pope Shinūda and Father Mattā al-Miskīn. Monk Bāsīliyyūs played a major role in providing information for this article.


Monk Bāsīliyyūs was an expert in canon law and wrote three books on canon law of which Prof. Dr. Otto Meinardus said that these deserved translation. This did not happen, but we published an introduction to these books with the tables of contents. Monk Bāsīliyyūs argued that the consecration of Pope Shinūda as Pope was not canonical since he was prior to his consecration a bishop. The summary of his books can be found here. All texts in which I have referred to monk or father Bāsīliyyūs have first been seen by him and approved.


Pope Shinūda has made repeated efforts to increase his control over the Monastery of St. Macarius [Dayr Abū Maqār] after the death of Father Matta al-Meskeen [Mattā al-Miskīn] (1919-2006). Father Bāsīliyyūs feared that if Bishop Mikhael [Mikhāʾīl] (1921-2014), for decades the titular head of the monastery, would come to pass away pope Shinūda would appoint a bishop of his choice and not that of the monastery. It was God’s provision, father Bāsīliyyūs believed, that Pope Shinūda passed away before Bishop Mikhāʾīl. Father Bāsīliyyūs was pleased with Pope Tawadros II’s [Tawāḍrūs] appointment of monk Epiphanius [Epīphāniyūs] as bishop and abbot of the monastery in 2013. The relationship between the Monastery and the Coptic Pope greatly improved. Bishop Epīphāniyūs was brutally murdered in 2018. Father Bāsīliyyūs was immediately adamant in personal conversations that this was the work of pro-Shinūda loyalists. Yet, he did not want his opinion to be published because he had no intention to become the center of a media storm.


Monk Bāsīliyyūs was always welcoming. I often brought students and visitors from other churches to the Monastery and always this resulted in engaged discussions. A few years ago, US photographer and filmmaker Norbert Schiller asked if we could meet and film a hermit. Father Bāsīliyyūs introduced us to Father Mina [Mīnā] who indeed allowed us to film. This was highly unusual since hermits usually avoid all media attention. This was only made possible due to the good relations I had with father Bāsīliyyūs who trusted that I would not engage in projects that could controversy for him or the monastery and it was possible thanks to the excellent relations between father Bāsīliyyūs and father Mīnā. Father Mīnā was living in a small cell where he translated the writings of church fathers from other languages into Arabic. Father Mīnā then made the impressive statement that all human beings are children of God, regardless of whether they are Christian, Muslim or atheist or whatever conviction. They may not know that they are a child of God but that does not take away that they are.  Father Bāsīliyyūs was thinking in the same line. “God is love” he once said and “love is God.”


Monk Bāsīliyyūs was born on June 7, 1934, started his religious life as a muqaris in the 1950s, living in a small community with other men who were dedicated to a life with God with academic study. The group came under the influence of Father Mattā al-Miskīn and on August 25, 1973, monk Bāsīliyyūs joined the Monastery of Macarius. He was for many years responsible for St. Marc bookstore in Shubra, Cairo, which made him travel between the Monastery and Cairo. He never asked attention for himself but with his knowledge of canon law and church history he was definitely an authority we will greatly miss.


Jaroslav Franc, Th.D., Chairperson of the Academic Senate and Head of the Department of Communication Studies at St. Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, wrote:


Abūnā Bāsīliyyūs from the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great served God and his Holy Church for 87 years. His nearly 50 years in monastic life were full of prayer and work. As a monk and a priest, he sowed among us a Word of God and as a librarian he had been responsible for spreading knowledge from the treasures housed in the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great. The loss is heavy for the Coptic Orthodox Church as well as for the international community of Christians and scholars too. Still, we hope that according to the will of our merciful God we will meet again in the Resurrection Day. May he rest in peace.


Here's a link to the articles he wrote for Arab-West Report: and here is the link to the texts he was mentioned in:āsīliyyūs -al-maqari-father

His birth in eternal life was mentioned on the website of the monastery, It is a good sign of relations that Pope Tawāḍrūs gave the monastery his condolences on the website of the monastery.



Cairo, April 1, 2021


Cornelis Hulsman, editor-in-chief Arab-West Report