On Tuesday morning, October 26, 2010, the great scientist Dr. Samir Fawzy Gerges left our mortal world. He is one of the loyal Coptic Orthodox Church members who have done much to serve the Church in general and the Coptic Orthodox Church in Switzerland in particular. I have known the honorable Reverend Doctor Samir Gerges personally since His Holiness Pope Shenouda III chose me to serve the Coptic Church in Switzerland in 1983, and my relationship with him continued throughout the past years until his departure.
Dr. Samir Fawzy Gerges was entrusted by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III to carry out the necessary procedures for the travel of the Coptic monk, who had been chosen to establish a permanent service for the Copts in Switzerland. During the crisis between President Sadat and Pope Shenouda in September 1981, Dr. Samir visited Pope Shenouda and several times did he show the Pope his researches and books in the area of Coptic history. His honorable wife, Madame Root, had an active role in the ministry, especially in the field of translation.
In this article, I would like to present a glimpse into the life of Dr. Samir Gerges, then turn to his contributions to the service of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Dr. Samir Fawzi Gerges was born in Ashmoun, Al-Moufia Governorate, on April 8, 1934. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the Department of History, Ain Shams University in 1956. He traveled to Switzerland in 1958 for higher studies. He obtained a doctorate in history from the University of Zurich in May 1966 and taught history in several Swiss universities and then became head of the history department at the Buchmann Institute in Zurich. He won the Scientific Research Prize in Switzerland as well as an award from the Supreme Council of the University of Zurich in 1962.
Dr. Samir put his knowledge in the service of the Church, so he took an interest in Coptic history and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III entrusted him with teaching the subject of ecclesiastical history at the Pope Shenouda III Theological College in Germany. Dr. Samir Gerges has done several researches and studies in the field of Coptic history. He is particularly interested in the history of the Theban Legion and its leader, Saint Maurice, and is interested in presenting a historical study documented in ancient manuscripts of the history of the Theban Legion and proving the Coptic origin of its members. His studies in the field of the history of the Theban Legion are considered the first Coptic studies of these Coptic saints. His scientific studies helped to commemorate these saints among the scientific circles in Switzerland and among the Coptic people in Egypt and abroad. His efforts gave great attention to the Theban Legion, Saint Morris and Saint Verina by many people including myself. The very first Church on their names was built in the Bishopric of Services building in 1994 and His Holiness the Pope inaugurated it. Churches were also established on their names outside Egypt, especially in the diocese of Los Angeles.
Dr. Samir Gerges has many books on Coptic history. He has 9 articles in the Coptic Encyclopedia on the Theban Legion, Saint Maurice, Saint Verena, Saints Felix, Regula, Xoyertthios and Saint Boktor in English. He was the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of "Coptic Heritage", which is an encyclopedia in the Arabic language that includes 6 volumes. The first volume: From the history of Copts. The second volume: Faith, worship, and ascetic life. Volume Three: Coptic Archeology, Arts, and Architecture. Volume Four: Science, Education, Social Life, and Coptic Press. Volume V: Canon Law and Church Relations. Sixth volume: Coptic language, Coptic literary heritage, Coptic music and melodies. 3- A Chronology of St. Mark. Mark is a very valuable book and is distinguished by its scientific and historical accuracy in tracing the life of Saint Mark. This book was issued in English by the Mark Coptic History Foundation. He also published a book on Mark, issued by the Egyptian House of Knowledge. 4- A collection of books on the Theban Legion and its saints issued in English and German by the Saint Pachom Publishing Foundation, which was founded by Dr. Samir Gerges to publish his books. We mention from these books: “The Theban Legion in Switzerland” published in 1985, “Saint Maurice, commander of the Theban Legion,” published in 1993, and “The Coptic Origin of the Theban Legion,” published in 1990 on the occasion of the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Maurice, as well as the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Federal Federation. The book "Saint Verena and the Theban Legion" in Arabic, which includes a translation of the original references of the biography of Saint Verena in the oldest Latin manuscripts found in Switzerland. This book was published in 2009, and it is considered the last book issued by Dr. Samir Gerges. It was prepared by his wife, Root Gerges. 5- In 1987 he published a book entitled “The Egyptians and Western Civilization” and a book to introduce the Coptic Church, titled “What is the Alexandria Coptic Orthodox Church”. These two books were published in English and German. 6- He issued a volume of tourist guides about Egypt, which consists of 800 pages in German, and is considered a reference for German tourists who visit Egypt. 7- Participated with the late Dr. Aziz Attia Sourial in many Coptic historical researches.
The late Dr. Samir Gerges was an active member of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Switzerland. I have witnessed his activities and service since I went as a monk priest to start a permanent service for Copts in Switzerland in 1983, and my visits to Switzerland continued after my ordination as a general bishop of the bishop of public and social services, before I started serving Los Angeles Bishopric. I ordained Dr. Samir Gerges as a deacon in the rank of Absalatus in 1985, which was the first ordination that I performed after my ordination as a bishop. He was an active deacon, who was keen to attend Holy Liturgies, and had an important role in translation. In the beginning of my service in Switzerland at St. Mark s Church in Zurich, he helped me a lot in learning the German language and he used to translate sermons during the Holy Mass. When I was invited to give a lecture in German in a Swiss monastery or church, he used to help me prepare the lecture in German and trained me to deliver it properly.
He is indeed one of the founders of the Coptic Church in Switzerland. He played an active role in all necessary procedures with the Swiss authorities to allow a Coptic priest to take care of Copts in 1983. He is also credited with building good relations with the Swiss churches, especially the Catholic monastery of Einsiedeln in which I stayed during my service In Switzerland, it became a residence for the monks who came to serve the German sector. And as a result of his contacts and relations, the Coptic Church in the emerging Switzerland was given a prominent role during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Switzerland in 1984. He played an active and effective role in negotiations with the Geneva government until we got a church to pray there in 1985, before buying the current Church of the Virgin in Geneva.
Dr. Samir Gerges had an unannounced service to help newcomers, especially in the German sector. He also helped the late honorable engineer, Adly Abader, in a program to provide study aid for many Coptic students who were studying in European universities. Dr. Samir Gerges also had a pioneering role in registering the Coptic Orthodox Church in Switzerland and establishing Bylaws for it.
It is very hard to record all the virtues and contributions of Dr. Samir Gerges in the service of his church, which he loved with all his heart and was an example of great, yet humble and spiritual scientist. We pray that God will depart his soul in the paradise of joy and grant heavenly consolation to all members of his family and all his disciples and loved ones. May the Lord receive him saying: Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21)