Her father Habib Elmasry was the secretary of the General Congregation Council of the Coptic Orthodox Church. She had two brothers; Amin, who was a prominent surgeon, and died in the 1960s, and Sami who was director of the Egyptian State Bureau for Tourism in London, and three sisters; Eva, who helped Iris in her work, Soraya, an avid pianist, and Dora, who was married to Dr Aziz El Masry
Habib Elmasry was the secretary of the General Congregation council for three terms, and was known for his strong support of ordination of a monk to be the Coptic pope and not a metropolitan or a bishop. This issue caused an ongoing dispute in the Coptic Orthodox Church and although The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church had considered in the 1960s the general bishops to be secretaries to the pope in the degree of a bishop, Iris Elmasry in her List of Coptic Orthodox Popes of Alexandria considered Pope Shenouda III (1971-2012), who was a general bishop before, to be the fourth bishop to become a pope after Popes John XIX (1928–1942), Macarius III (1942–1944)and Joseph II (1946–1956).
Elmasry received her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in education from Maria Grey College, University of London in 1932.
In 1954, Pope Joseph II appointed Elmasry as the female delegate of the Coptic Church to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Evanston, Illinois, USA.
Elmasry took interest in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church and in 1948 published the first volume of her nine-volumes book Story of the Coptic church. The seventh volume of this history is about the era of Pope Cyril VI (1959–1971): the book shows how highly appreciative she was of His Holiness's work.
She considered Abouna Matta El Meskeen the Spiritual Father of the Monks in St. Macarius' Monastery in Scetis (Egypt) as her mentor and always expressed gratitude to him in the introductions to her books and also to father Bishoy Kamel of Alexandria.
Pope Youssab II, the 115th Pope (1946-1956), appointed Elmasry in 1954 as his secretary for correspondence with the World Council of Churches. His successor Pope Kyrillos VI, the 116th Pope (1959-1971), appointed her in 1966 as Counselor to young Coptic women.
While Elmasry's Arabic language publications are among the most widely quoted in the historical literature of the Coptic Church, her impressive work as a theologian, politician, psychologist, educator, and philanthropist is not as widely known. An article by Saad (2009) presents an introduction to her contributions to certain areas of politics and theology, while exploring in more detail unique features of her writing that may offer a framework for Coptic feminine theology.
Elmasry's work was very thorough: she made every effort not to omit details that she considered important. As a result, her work is more detailed, and of greater use to both academic and non-academic readers; is valuable for any researcher in Coptic history and provides a comprehensive approach to the history of Christianity in Egypt and point of view of the Coptic Church regarding many debatable issue like Council of Chalcedon.
In the introduction to the first volume of her nine volumes book on the history of the Coptic Church, she mentions a conversation she had with a non-Egyptian about Council of Chalcedon, during which she explained the Coptic view regarding the council.
She used a lot of sources in her work and mentioned many known scripts in different languages. Her work shows clear affection towards her church, and high esteem for certain people in the church's history. This may be the reason behind the way she presented the history of Pope Cyril III in comparison to the way it was presented in Abouna Menassa Youhanna's book History of the Coptic Church.
Family: Nada Gregory and her granddaughter Mariam Gabalawy