Bishop Suriel Writes Book on Educationalist: Habib Girgis

More than ever, the world needs strong leaders, committed teachers, and people filled with a life purpose, encouragement and hope. Such was the life embodied by a humble Coptic gent named Habib Girgis, who was born in Cairo in 1876 and lived in Egypt until 1951. There is much to be learnt from this man as is highlighted in a new book by Leader of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne, Bishop Suriel.

Habib worked diligently for the Coptic Orthodox Church, founded by the apostle St Mark in Egypt, as a deacon, educator, writer and speaker. In 2013 he was also declared a Saint by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church.

A natural scholar, Habib was the first theology student to enter the esteemed Catechetical School of Alexandria (founded in ancient times and revived centuries later). He also served as Dean of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Habib helped to improve the theology school and affiliated seminary by creating curriculum, developing research, expanding buildings, publishing books and conducting translation of foreign texts to Arabic which ensured greater access to literature within the Coptic community.

Habib was also pivotal in establishing a children’s Sunday School program. He engaged young people in faith formation which led to a lifelong learning trajectory of spiritual, pastoral and intellectual growth. The Sunday Schools, founded in many Egyptian cities, continue to flourish today in Egypt and beyond.

Bishop Suriel wrote his doctoral dissertation to showcase the profoundly positive impact of Habib’s educational and pastoral works. The Melbourne bishop’s research has been reworked in a new book entitled: Habib Girgis Coptic Orthodox Educator and a Light in the Darkness. While writing the dissertation Bishop Suriel found a treasure trove of vital material by chance stating that: “While researching this book I literally stumbled upon 7000 pages of archival material in storage under the Cathedral in Cairo which no one knew existed. This material shed much new light on Girgis and his work.”

Habib captured Bishop Suriel’s attention because he championed the value of education in cultivating people’s hearts and minds to unlock their full potential. “Habib was a fascinating, respected and prominent figure at the turn of the twentieth century in Egypt,” Bishop Suriel said. “He was a writer of books, a poet, a great thinker, a reformer and established formal religious education for the first time in Egypt. He was also the much-loved dean of the theological college in Cairo from 1918 till his death in 1951.”

The new book, Habib Girgis Coptic Orthodox Educator and a Light in the Darkness, is available in paper and hardback editions. It has been published by SVS Press New York, the largest Orthodox publisher in the world, in collaboration with the Melbourne-based publishing house SAC Press. Order your copy now!