by Febe Armanios
On January 11, renowned Coptic Orthodox priest Abouna Makary Younan (1934-2022) died in Cairo of complications from COVID-19. His death quickly followed that of his wife Mama Souna, who suffered from the same illness and passed away on January 7. Based in the old Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo’s Azbakiyya district, the oft-controversial preacher was famous for his charismatic style, for his miracles, singing, and capacity to perform exorcisms. Abouna Makary’s popularity grew exponentially since the mid-2000s, when his sermons and church services began to appear on Christian television channels in the Middle East. For more than fifteen years, he honed a particularly captivating televisual style that touched millions of viewers and influenced scores of preachers on Arabic Christian channels.
Sabry Younan ‘Abd al-Malik was born in the Upper Egyptian town of Maragha, near Sohag. He was educated to be a teacher and then worked as a government civil servant for several years, but after receiving a diploma from the Coptic Clerical College, his interest in devoting a life to the church intensified. While living in Cairo in the 1970s, he served with Abouna Zakaria Botros, priest at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Heliopolis. Then, Abouna Zakaria—a towering if controversial Christian media figure in his own right—was known for organizing a weekly meeting at St. Mark’s, attended by hundreds and marked by the practice of exorcisms and exuberant singing. It is said that Sabry honed his talents for leading praise and worship during these meetings.Continue reading