CROWN OF THORNS: Egyptians mourn Coptic Pope Shenouda III


CROWN OF THORNS: Egyptians mourn Coptic Pope Shenouda III
by Darius Kadivar

Tens of thousands of Egypt's Coptic Christians hold an overnight vigil and attend a Mass for Pope Shenouda III, who died on Saturday aged 88. Pope Benedict XVI has said the Catholic Church shares the pain of the Coptic Orthodox Church over the death of its patriarch, Pope Shenouda III. Benedict sent a message of condolences Sunday following Shenouda's death Saturday. (See Related News) (See Photos)

Al Jazeera Coverage:


Many wept as they prayed for the pope outside the city's main cathedral.

The vigil was followed by a Sunday morning Mass, with the dead pope's body sat in the papal chair dressed in ceremonial robes.

He died at the age of 88 on Saturday, after reportedly suffering from cancer. He led the Church for four decades.

Coptic Christians make up 10% of Egypt's population of 80 million, making them the Middle East's largest Christian minority.

After attacks on Coptic Christians in recent years, Pope Shenouda had urged officials to do more to address the community's concerns.






Obituary: Pope Shenouda III (bbc)

The reign of Pope Shenouda III saw a huge expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church beyond its traditional Egyptian base.

A passionate advocate of unity among the Christian churches, his sometimes radical ideas brought him into conflict with other Church leaders.

His reign also saw clashes with former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, particularly over the future of his country's relationship with Israel.

Pope Shenouda was born Nazeer Gayed into a devoutly Christian family on 3 August 1923 in Asyut, Upper Egypt.

He graduated with a history degree from Cairo University and began attending Coptic theological classes at night.

He became a monk in 1954, taking the name Father Antonios el-Syriani, and lived in a cave as a hermit for six years, spending his time praying and meditating.

In 1962 Pope Cyril IV ordained him as a bishop and he took the name Shenouda after the 4th century scholar Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite .

He was also made Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary eventually tripling the number of students studying at the centre.

Israel row

He achieved a reputation as a radical clashing with pope Cyril on a number of issues, including the right of congregations to select their own bishops.

Pope Cyril died in March 1971 and Shenouda was enthroned as Pope of Alexandria the following November, the first such ceremony in St Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, which was inaugurated three years previously.
His first major test came in 1976 when the Patriarch of Ethiopia, Abuna Theophilos, was arrested by the Marxist regime in Addis Ababa and eventually executed.

Shenouda refused to recognise the replacement patriarch appointed by the Ethiopian government and relationships between the two churches were severed for 30 years.

He was banished by President Anwar Sadat to a desert monastery in 1981 for refusing to hold public celebrations to mark Easter.

A number of other Church figures were arrested and Shenouda only returned to Cairo in 1985, three years after Sadat's assassination.

He also fell out with Sadat because of Shenouda's views over the relationship between Egypt and Israel.

The Pope banned members of his congregation from visiting Christian sites in Israel stating that Christians should only go to Jerusalem hand in hand with Muslims once the conflict between Israel and Arab states was resolved.

His pronouncement was attacked by Copts, particularly those outside Egypt, who accused their pope of mixing politics and religion.

Pope Shenouda's reign saw a huge expansion in the Coptic Church particularly in the United States where the four churches in existence in 1971 have grown to more than 100.

There has been a similar growth in Australia and New Zealand as well as an increase in the number of churches in Europe and the UK.

His commitment to the concept of the unity of Christian churches took him to the Vatican in 1973 to meet Pope Paul VI, the first Coptic Pope for 1,500 years to go to Rome.

He believed that Christian unity was a matter of faith rather than of jurisdiction.

"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," he told a forum in 1974.

Related pictory:

pictory: Shahbanou Greets Christian Church in Western Azerbaijan (1975)

ROYALTY AND FAITH:Ayatollah Jannati Kisses Shahbanou Farah's Hand (1970's)

Related Blogs on Religion and Faith:


Queen Elizabeth Greeted by British Baha'is at Diamond Jubilee's multi faith reception

FISH & FAITH : "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen"

Christopher Hitchens Slams Women's Comments on Islam & Freedom under IRI

Mother Teresa: Saint or Scandal? Christopher Hitchens Vs Bill Donohue (Hardball Debate)

ATHEISM 2.0 : Alain de Botton on What Atheists Can Learn From Religion


more from Darius Kadivar
Darius Kadivar

'Blindfolded child selects name'

by Darius Kadivar on

'Blindfolded child selects name'Watch (bbc)


Egypt's Coptic Christians will learn who is their new pope on Sunday, when a blindfolded child selects the name of one of three candidates.

Two bishops and a monk are on the shortlist to become the 118th leader of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East - up to 11 million strong.

The individual chosen will succeed Pope Shenouda III, who died in March.

The BBC's Jon Leyne described the ceremony in St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. 


Darius Kadivar

Egypt's Copts await new pope draw

by Darius Kadivar on

Egypt's Copts await new pope draw (bbc)

Coptic Christians in Egypt and around the world wait for a blindfolded boy to draw the name of their next pope from a box in Cairo.

Darius Kadivar

In pictures: Coptic Christians vote

by Darius Kadivar on

Darius Kadivar

Egypt's Copts to vote for new Pope

by Darius Kadivar on

Egypt's Copts to vote for Pope (bbc)

A council of Coptic Christians in Egypt is set to shortlist successors to Pope Shenouda III, before a blindfolded child picks from a list of three

Darius Kadivar

Egypt court releases Coptic boys accused of blasphemy

by Darius Kadivar on

Egypt court releases Coptic boys (bbc)


A court in Egypt has ordered the release pending investigation of two Coptic Christian children detained on Tuesday for blasphemy against Islam.

A Muslim cleric in Izbat Marco, a village in Beni Suef province, said he saw the boys, aged nine and 10, take pages of the Koran and urinate on them.

A Coptic priest said local Islamists attended demonstrations calling for revenge for the desecration of a Koran.

Human rights groups say allegations of contempt of religion are on the rise.

Seventeen cases have been filed since the 2011 uprising, many of them against Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt's 82 million people.


Darius Kadivar

Egypt charges Coptic Christians linked to infamous video

by Darius Kadivar on

Egypt charges Coptics linked to video (cnn)


(CNN) -- Egyptian authorities have charged seven Coptic Christians living in the United States and a Florida pastor with insulting Islam and inciting sectarian strife for their alleged links to an online video that has enraged much of the Muslim world.






Darius Kadivar

Egypt orders arrest of Seven US Copts

by Darius Kadivar on

Egypt orders arrest of US Copts (bbc)


Cairo seeks the arrest of seven US-based Egyptian Copts and Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones, over a film that sparked widespread Muslim protests.

Darius Kadivar

Coptic-Muslim clashes in Egypt

by Darius Kadivar on

Coptic-Muslim clashes in Egypt (bbc)


At least 16 people have been wounded after Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes in a village near the Egyptian capital, Cairo, officials say.

The unrest in Dahshur, about 40km (25 miles) south of Cairo, started after a Muslim man died of wounds sustained in an earlier clash on Friday.

Violence frequently flares between Egypt's Muslim majority and its Coptic Christian minority.

It is the first instance since Mohammed Mursi took over as president in June.

Last October, a suicide attack on a church in Alexandria killed 24 people.


Darius Kadivar

Egypt's Copts look to new president for sense of equality

by Darius Kadivar on

Actions Not Words (bbc)

By Muhammad Shukri

One of the toughest challenges that will face Egypt's new President, Mohammed Mursi, will be relations with the country's Coptic Christian community.

In the presidential run-off election, Copts, who make up about 10% of the population, voted overwhelmingly for Mr Mursi's rival, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, motivated by concerns about having an Islamist as head of state.

Since being declared the winner, Mr Mursi has tried to allay their fears, promising equal treatment for all Egyptians. However, it will be his actions and not his words that Copts will be keeping a close eye on.

Darius Kadivar

Grief 'explodes' at Coptic Pope funeral

by Darius Kadivar on

Grief 'explodes' at Coptic Pope funeral (bbc, VIDEO)


The funeral of Coptic Pope Shenouda III has taken place in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

St Mark's cathedral was packed with mourners paying their respects to the 88-year-old pope who died on Saturday.

He was the spiritual leader of Egypt's Copts, who make up 10% of the country's population and are the Middle East's largest Christian community.

Jon Leyne reports. 

Darius Kadivar

In pictures: Egypt pope's funeral

by Darius Kadivar on