Skip to comments.Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III dies
Posted on 03/17/2012 6:48:50 PM PDT by annalex
Hatem Maher, Saturday 17 Mar 2012
The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, has died on Saturday at the age of 88, after a long battle against illness.
The Coptic patriarch suffered from back and kidney problems for years and repeatedly travelled to the United States for medical treatment. "Pope Shenouda died from complications in health and from old age," his political adviser Hany Aziz said.
He was born on 3 August 1923 in Asiut, Upper Egypt and has been the Pope of Alexandria since November 1971 when president Anwar El-Sadat was in power.
"We lost today a great icon. His presence was crucial in repelling many threats against the country, Amin Eskandar, a member in the Peoples Assembly (parliament's lower house), said in a phone call with state television channel Nile News.
"His patriotism and wise approaches to any issue were very helpful. May God compensate us for the loss of that great man.
Pope Shenouda was widely acclaimed by Christians and Muslims alike in recent years for his regular efforts to contain sectarian tensions following a number of incidents some involving the burning of churches, but was also criticized for turning the church into a political entity.
He was also known for his support of Palestinian rights in the decades-long Middle East conflict. Because of these and other stances, he was often described as an Arab nationalist by many observers.
In 2001, he famously stated he would never visit Jerusalem unless he entered the country with a Palestinian visa along with Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the late Grand Imam of Egypts foremost religious authority, Al-Azhar.
"I was full of admiration for the great patriotic stances he took throughout his life, said Mohamed Refaa El-Tahtawy, the former spokesman of Al-Azhar.
"I remember his great remarks about the visit to Jerusalem, when he refused to go there under the Israeli occupation, he added.
Relationship with Sadat, Mubarak
Shenouda had a frosty relationship with late Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat, who placed him under house arrest in 1981, marking the climax of repeated disputes between both men.
Sadat was enraged after Shenouda implied that Egyptian Christians were being subjected to discriminatory treatment by authorities.
This outspokenness saw Shenuda placed under house arrest during which the administration of the Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Chucrch was entrusted to a panel of five bishops.
The following month, Sadat was assassinated in an Islamist plot. Sadats successor Hosni Mubarak released him a year later and in 1985 restored his full authority.
He then enjoyed a warm relationship with Mubarak, who was overthrown in a popular uprising in January 2011.
Shenouda heaped praise on the revolution just days after Mubarak was ousted on 11 February. The pope, however, was criticized by many Christians for failing to scold Egypts ruling military following the infamous Maspero incident in October last year.
On 9 October, a violent army crackdown against pro-Coptic Christian protesters left at least 29 dead in front of Egypt's state TV and radio building (Maspero).
On Saturday evening thousands of Copts who had gathered at the courtyard of the cathedral were unable to pay their last respects to the deceased patriarch. "We are not sure when this will be possible, said one source. Perhaps tomorrow.
Another source indicated that no one would be admitted into the presence of the pope until the day of the funeral, which will be held on Tuesday three days from now to make time for followers of the pope to come form all across Egypt and from abroad.
By Saturday evening, most presidential hopefuls, who had by and large made an effort to frequent Coptic mass since the end of the Mubarak regime, were offering their condolences. "With one or two exceptions we expect all presidential hopefuls to be present in the funeral mass," added the last source, indicating that all state bodies, political parties and groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, had already contacted the church: "Many have been asking how they might pay their respects and participate in the funeral mass."
Meanwhile, official and church sources said a high level state representation is scheduled for the funeral mass. The head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Hussein Tantawi is expected to appear at the Cathedral to offer his condolences while the number two man of SCAF, Sami Annan, is expected to be present throughout the mass. Tantawy gave three days of official holiday to copts.
Annan and several SCAF members were invited to attend Christmas Mass on 6 January despite the outrage of the Coptic public at the militarys conspicuous involvement in carnage that befell Coptic demonstrators on 9 Octobers while they protested a series of attacks on Coptic churches across Egypt.
Diplomats and some foreign dignitaries are also expected at the funeral which will probably take part at the Abbassiya Cathedral before the coffin is taken to a monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun for burial.
We offer our deep condolences to every one of our Christian brothers for the loss of Pople Shenouda, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie said in a statement.
May God help all our Christian brothers overcome this ordeal and bring a successor who can keep promoting the sense of unity between all citizens, he added.
An Egyptian army Statement said that the Pope was a 'rare statesman who worked with all of his energy to promote the wellbeing of the nation'.
Bishop Bakhomious (Pachomious) of Behera will head the Coptic Orthodox church for an interim period of two months. The General Congregation Council, which is part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, will nominate three bishops, one of which is to succeed Pope Shenouda III.
The names of the three bishops will be written on three papers, and a child will randomly pick one of them. This way is used in order for the "will of God" to play a role in the process.
Lord, rest Thy servant Shenouda with Thy saints and bless the Coptic Church of Egypt.
From the land of the great ancient Egyptian civilization, the land visited by Our Lord and the Holy Family, and from the line of renowned predecessors such as St. Mark the Apostle, St. Athanasius the Apostolic, and St. Cyril the Great, comes the author of the renaissance of the Coptic Orthodox Church: H. H. Pope Shenouda III.
A distinguished and prominent religious leader, a profound theologian, a gifted preacher, a talented author, a spiritual father, a man of God his entire life.
His Holiness was born Nazeer Gayed on August 3, 1923, to a pious Christian family in Egypt. By the age of 16, H. H. was active in the Sunday School movement, which wrought to enrich Christian Education in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
When H. H. graduated from Cairo University, he joined the Coptic Orthodox Seminary, and upon graduation, joined the faculty of the seminary.
On July 18, 1954, H. H. chose the solitude of the Egyptian desert and the angelic life of monasticism over everything else, taking the example of St. Anthony the Great. As a monk, and later a monk priest, H. H. carried the name of the Christian monk and was know as Fr. Antonious El-Syriani.
Wishing to live in complete solitude and devotion to our Lord, he became a hermit and lived in a cave that he had carved out himself for a period of six years. On September 30, 1962, he was called by the late Pope Cyril VI to be consecrated Bishop of Christian Education and President of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. He was known as His Grace Bishop Shenouda. Through his leadership of the seminary, the number of students tripled.
On November 14, 1971, His Grace Bishop Shenouda was consecrated as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.
Since that blessed day, the Coptic Orthodox Church has witnessed a remarkable revival through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the pastoral care of H. H. Pope Shenouda III. H. H. conducts a weekly meeting, which is attended by over seven thousand of the faithful at the Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo.
H. H has been the editor-in-chief of El-Keraza Magazine, the official publication of the Coptic Orthodox Church, since 1962. He became the first patriarch of Alexandria since the Fifth Century to have been Dean of the Theological Seminary and continues to lecture at the branches of the Seminary in Cairo, Alexandria, and abroad and the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies. He also established other branches of the Seminary in Egypt as well as in America, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
His Holiness is the author of 101 books on a variety of subjects, over half of which have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, and other languages.
He has ordained more than eighty Metropolitans and Bishops and over 600 priests since 1971. He gives special attention to the youth of the church. H. H. has said many times, A church without youth is a church without a future. And one of our youth once replied to H. H., And youth without the church are youth without a future.
H. H. also gives special attention to the service of women in the Coptic Orthodox Church. H. H. said, and I quote, We felt a great need of the work of women and we wanted women to have a certain order and service in the church, not only to have girls as Sunday School teacher who give a part of their time whenever they can, but we want girls and women to give their whole life to God and serve the Church.
Despite his many responsibilities, H. H. usually manages to spend three days a week in the monastery. His love of monasticism has led a monastic revival in the Coptic Orthodox Church. He has ordained hundreds of monks and nuns and reestablished many monasteries and convents. He is the first pope to establish Coptic monasteries outside of Egypt, which presently number nine.
One of the most remarkable things about the growth of the Coptic Orthodox Church is her expansion worldwide. When H. H. became pope in 1971, there were only four churches in North America. Today, there are over 100.
The year 1996 witnessed the installation of the fist two Diocesan bishops for the United States, one for Los Angeles and the other for the Southern United States. There are plans to further group the churches into regional dioceses in the near future.
H. H. has established mission churches in the U. S. Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, Bermuda, and St. Kitts. Moreover, he founded the first Coptic Orthodox Church in South America in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and the second in Bolivia.
Under his leadership, the Coptic Orthodox Church has also witnessed a growth in Australia and New Zealand, where there are currently twenty-eight churches. In 1999, we witnessed the enthronement of the first bishop over Melbourne, Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, there are currently over fifty church and ten bishops. Africa currently has two bishops serving in missions in nine African countries.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III is well known for his deep commitment to Christian Unity. In an address he gave at an ecumenical forum during the International Week of Prayer in 1974, he declared, The whole Christian world is anxious to see the church unite. Christian people, being fed up with divisions, are pushing their church leaders to do something about church unity and I am sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us.
H. H. has emphasized that Christian Unity must be found upon a unity of faith and not a unity of jurisdiction. As a result, H. H. has paid many visits to the various sister Orthodox churches and their patriarchs, such as those of Constantinople, Moscow, Romania, and Antioch. A full communion of these churches with the Oriental Orthodox Churches is very close.
In 1973, H. H. was the first Coptic Orthodox pope to visit the Vatican in over 1500 years. In this visit, both H. H. Pope Shenouda III and H. H. Pope Paul VI signed a common declaration on the issue of Christology and agreed to establish joint commissions for dialogue on unity. There have also been dialogues with various Protestant churches worldwide.
Under the leadership of H. H., the Coptic Orthodox Church is a full member of the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Church, the All-African Council of Churches, the National Council of the Churches in Christ in the U.S.A., the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Australian Council of Churches. In May 2000, he established the first ecumenical office, in the Archdiocese of North America.
--Biography from St. Mark's Church of Cleveland, Ohio.
God bless him.
Yes. God Bless Him.
I’m surprised there are still Christians and churches in Egypt.
My friend teaches religion at a local Catholic highschool. One day a few years ago, a couple of his students excitedly informed him that the Pope was coming. He went, “What??” And then he realized that they were Coptic Orthodox, and were talking about the Coptic Pope’s visit, not the Roman Pope.
In fact, the Christian Arab population was always present in the Middle East, and only became dwindling in numbers in the past decade.
The Coptic Church is not in communion with either the Orthodox nor the Catholic Churches, so they have their own system of clerical designations.
Myrrh and incense let us take and a sweet remembrance
make of souls who sleep with the faith that they will arise.
Who with Your true body, Lord,
have received your blood adored
impart to these faithful souls
the heavenly prize.
Righteous souls, the faith have kept,
with the hope of rising sleep,
expecting your great reward in Heaven above.
Which has not been seen or heard,
nor to man has it occurred
What God has prepared for those
who yearn for his love.
We remember those who preached,
all around the world they reached,
apostles and prophets of the greatest renown;
We remember those who died, beaten,
burned and crucified.
On earth they have won our praise,
in heaven a crown.
From a 6th century Syriac prayer for the deceased. This prayer is chanted at every Maronite funeral as well as at the Divine Liturgy celebrated 40 days after the deceased's passing.
Give rest, Son of God, in your kingdom on high, with the saints and the just, to Pope Shenouda III. Amen