Adel Azer Bestavros

Teacher, Servant, and Family Patriarch

1924 - 2005



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In Memoriam


Adel Bestavros was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on March 23rd, 1924 -- the first-born son of Victoria (Iskander Yacoub) and Azer (Bestavros Hanna AbdelMalek ElNaggar).


His father, Azer Bestavros, was a distinguished lawyer and Head of the Syndicate of Lawyers in Alexandria, Egypt, and an ordained Deacon, serving the altar of the Cathedral of Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria. His mother, Victoria, a graduate of the British School in Alexandria, was a housewife who raised four children: Adel, Isis, Naguib, and Nabil.


Adel Bestavros obtained his high-school diploma in Letters in 1941. Having ranked top of his graduating class from the School of Saint Mark in Alexandria, he was admitted to the Law School of the University of Fouad The First (Alexandria University). In 1945, he obtained the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree with distinction and was appointed as District Attorney for the Attarin District in Alexandria. In 1947, he was awarded a fellowship towards a PhD in international law at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. In 1949, he obtained a Masters in International Maritime Law. Later that year, his doctoral studies at Glasgow were cut short by the sudden death of his father, which forced him to go back to Alexandria, Egypt, where he took over his father's practice, which he kept until his retirement fifty years later in 1999.  In 1957, he endured another significant loss, when his 31-year-old brother Naguib, whom "he loved in truth" died after a long battle with diabetes.


Adel Bestavros' illustrious career included his ascent as a supreme court lawyer in Egypt, his tenure with Abdel-Hadi, Yansouni, and El-Deeb law firm, and his participation in drafting the maritime laws of a number of Arab Gulf states. He held academic appointments at Alexandria University Law School and at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology, where he taught special courses on International Maritime Law. Some of the landmark cases he argued and won in Egyptian court included a case against the Egyptian Government's intentional sinking of ships in the Suez Canal, on the heels of the 1967 war with Israel -- a case that lasted for over 20 years. Throughout his distinguished legal career, he represented all types of clients, from world-wide organizations and corporations like the World Bank and the Lloyds of London, to individuals who could not afford legal representation. 


Adel Bestavros was a fervent servant, preacher, and scholar of the Christian Coptic Orthodox Church. From a very young age, he developed a passion for biblical studies. During his high-school and college years, he participated in Bible studies organized by British evangelists in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1946, when asked by these evangelists to leave his mother church, the Apostolic Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, on the grounds that it was a backward, dying church, led by a cohort of uneducated clergy, he proclaimed: "If my Church is dying, then it is my duty to resuscitate it".  Indeed, in 1946, he was the youngest of a handful of professional lay people who founded a society named "ElRabta ElMorkoseya", which means "Alliance of Saint Mark". Headquartered a stone's throw away from the Cathedral of Saint Mark in Alexandria, this society was dedicated to the spiritual growth of its members, to extending social services to poor and needy Copts all over Egypt, and to the reformation of church governance. For over fifty years, he gave a weekly one-hour sermon (every Friday evening), as part of a Bible Study on the New Testament, which was followed by a fellowship meeting in which society members discussed their various activities and plans. In addition to delivering these weekly sermons, he was a frequent preacher during regular services in many churches in Alexandria, including the Cathedral of Saint Mark, the Church of Saint Mina in Fleming, the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Joseph in Semouha, and in youth and college-level youth meetings, including those at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Moharam Bek and the Church of Saint George in Sporting. His sermons were unique in their unyielding defense of the Christian faith, their extensive use of the Holy scriptures, their emphasis of history and primary sources, and their reliance on the writings of Early Church Fathers, most notably Saint Athanasius, Saint Augustine, and Saint John Chrysostom, as well as contemporary Christian writers, most notably C. S. Lewis and Billy Graham.


Adel Bestavros was ordained deacon, serving the Altar of the Cathedral of Saint Mark in Alexandria, by Pope Yossab (Joseph) The Second in the early 1950s. For many decades, he served on the councils of many churches in Alexandria, including Saint Mark's Cathedral and Saint Mina's Church in Fleming. He was one of seven elected members to serve on the National Lay Council ("ElMagles ElMellee") of the Coptic Church in 1957 -- a council that was credited with instituting much needed reforms in church governance, including the establishment of an oversight committee for the management of the Coptic Church's Estates, and the development of the current protocol for the selection of the Coptic Pope -- the protocol that in 1959 led to elevating a monk named Azer to become Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI, the 116th Pope of the See of Saint Mark, whose spiritual leadership of the Church is credited by many as ushering an unprecedented period of renewal and spiritual growth.


Adel Bestavros acted both as legal counsel and confidant of Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI. He wrote many arguments and legal opinions on behalf of the Pope concerning a wide range of topics related to the constitutionality of various Egyptian Laws (especially on issues of divorce, inheritance, and freedom of religion). For almost three decades, he served on the Coptic Estate Council ("Hay'et ElAwkaf"), and represented the Coptic Church (and delivered its reports) in many meetings of the World Council of Churches. After the departure of Pope Kyrillos in 1971, and under the leadership of Pope Shenouda III,  he continued to serve in many of these capacities including his continued service on the Coptic Estate Council, his appointment as a instructor at the Coptic Seminary School in Alexandria, and his election to the reconstituted National Lay Council of the Coptic Church in 1978.


Adel Bestavros was married on September  4, 1960 to Rachel (Abdou Henein), then a sophomore in the Law School at Alexandria University, and who he met through her brother Father Yohanna (John) Henein, the first university-educated priest to be ordained in the Coptic Church. Together, they raised their four children, Azer (born in 1961), Marie (born in 1962), Jeanne (born in 1968), and Naguib (born in 1971), in a small apartment in a building abutting the one in which he grew up.


Adel Bestavros' visibility as a prominent professional, and as a leader of the Coptic Church's laity earned him the wrath of President Anwar Sadat's secret service police. In September, 1981, and in an attempt to preempt the tide of the Islamic movement aiming to topple him (and which a month later succeeded in assassinating him), Sadat ordered his secret service to arrest and detain thousands of Islamic extremists. And, in a flagrant attempt to appease the majority of Moslems in Egypt by portraying his preemptive strike as an effort to preserve national unity between Moslems and Christians, Sadat also ordered the detention of key Coptic leaders, including Pope Shenouda III, a handful of Bishops, a few dozen priests, and a few dozen leaders from the Coptic Church's laity, including Adel Bestavros. For the five months that followed his abduction from his home in Alexandria, and his detention in a number of jails and prison camps in the outskirts of Cairo, Adel Bestavros wrote some of his most precious spiritual reflections. He was never charged, and eventually was released on the eve of the Feast of Theophany in January 1982.


Adel Bestavros traveled extensively. In addition to his residence in Glasgow, Scotland, for his graduate studies, he later traveled to many destinations within the United Kingdom, including England, Ireland, and Wales. His legal representation in Egypt of various international entities brought him to a number of countries in Europe, including France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, a number of destinations in the Middle East, including  Syria, Oman, Bahrain, Dubai, and Qatar, and most major cities in the United States, including  New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle. In a number of trips to the United States, he visited family and friends in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island. Of all of these trips, his most memorable was his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his wife Rachel and his son Azer during the Paschal week and  Easter of 1965.  


Adel Bestavros passed away peacefully on January 9, 2005, while sitting with his wife Rachel, son Naguib, and daughter Jeanne and their families, just past midnight of the day after Orthodox Christmas, which he celebrated with his family in his apartment in Alexandria, as he has done for decades. He is survived by his wife, his four children, his eight grandchildren, and by scores of others who adopted him as a fatherly figure and as a teacher.


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