The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expresses its deepest condolences on the occasion of the death of Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan, former bishop of the diocese of Assiut, in Egypt.
Bishop Kyrillos oversaw the largest Coptic Catholic diocese in Egypt for 31 years, and during that period he became renowned for his efforts to strengthen the spirit of cooperation between all Egyptians.
Over those decades he grew to become a good friend and working partner of ACN, having visited the international headquarters in Konigstein (Germany), as well as several national offices, such as Brazil, the UK, Switzerland, and France. The pontifical charity also invited him to visit and present the plight of Christians in his homeland to members of the European Union institutions.
Bishop Kyrillos lived through very turbulent times, including the years of Nasser’s pan-Arabism, and tensions with Israel. He was in Rome for his theological studies during the Six-Day War, but due to the resulting tensions he was forced to do five years of military service when he returned home, before being ordained a priest on 10 June 1974.
More recently he helped guide his community through the difficult years of the “Arab Spring”, which resulted in widespread attacks on Christians in Egypt, who he regretted were often seen as second-class citizens in their own homeland. “Despite the attacks on their places of worship, Egyptian Christians are not afraid, the churches are full. We have a mission to accomplish: to be witnesses of God's love in the midst of a world full of violence”, he told an ACN audience during one of his many events with the organisation.
Kyrillos William Samaan was born near Assiut in 1946 to a large Coptic Catholic family where love for the Church was encouraged. Four of his brothers and sisters also followed the religious life. According to information provided by the family to ACN, he died aged, aged 76, in the early hours of 11 May 2023, in a hospital in Cairo.
Christians make up between 10% and 20% of the population of Egypt, and are the descendants of the original inhabitants, before the Arab invasions of the 7th century. Most Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, but a small minority belong to the Coptic Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome. As a dedicated ecumenist, it is fitting that Bishop Kyrillos ascended to the Father at a time when the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, was in Rome visiting Pope Francis, who took the unprecedented step of inviting him to address the traditional Wednesday general audience.
Bishop Kyrillos will be dearly missed by his faithful, and by the wider ACN family, but we have no doubt that he will continue to intercede for Christians in need all over the world.
- By Filipe d’Avillez and Amelie Berthelin
Featured Image: Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.