1* A Brief biography of H.H. Pope Shenouda III
2* Early Life
3* Monastic Life
4* Enthronement as Pope
5* Pastoral Activities
6* The Exile and Efforts for National Unity
7* Ecumenical Relations
8* The Coptic Church all over the world
9* The Papal Visits
Arabic language: قداسة البابا شنوده الثالث,
Papa Abba Senou]
Papa Abba Senou]
Papa Senouda =g
ብጹዕ ወቅዱስ አቡነ ሺኖዳ ፫ኛ, Syrian language: ܦܐܦܐ ܫܢܘܕܐ ܬܠܝܬܝܐ, Hebew language:
האפיפיור שנודה השלישי, Greek language: Πάπα Σενούντα Γ΄.
1} A Brief Biography of His Holiness Pope Shenouda
His Holiness was
born on August 3, 1923 in the city of Asuit in Upper Egypt; he was given
the name of Nazir Gayed. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in History
in 1947 from the University of Cairo. Mr. Gayed was very active in his church
and served as a Sunday School teacher, first at Saint Anthony's Church in
Shobra and then at Saint Mary's Church in Mahmasha. He worked as a high
school English and Social Studies teacher in Cairo by day, and attended
classes at the Coptic Theological Seminary by night. Upon graduation from
the seminary in 1949, he was chosen to teach New Testament Studies. He was
appointed in 1953 as a teacher in the Monastic School.
From his youth, His Holiness enjoyed writing very much, especially poems;
he is a remarkably literate man as evidenced by the over 100 books that
have been written by him. For many years, he was the Editor-in-Chief of
the Sunday School Magazine. At the same time, he followed his post-graduate
studies at the Seminary of Archeology.
On July 18, 1954, Mr. Gayed was led to the monastic life at "El-Suryan"
Monastery in the western desert of Egypt; he was given the name of Father
Antonyos El-Suryaani. For six years, from 1956 to 1962, he lived a life of
solitude in a cave about seven miles away from the monastery, dedicating all
his time to meditation, prayer, and asceticism.
In 1962, he was ordained by the late Pope Cyril VI as Bishop of Ecclesiastical
(Religious) Education and was named President of the Coptic Theological
Seminary; he was given the name of Bishop Shenouda on September 30, 1962.
Continuing from his literary past, Bishop Shenouda published the first issue
of "El-Keraza" magazine in Arabic in 1965, and remains the Editor-in-Chief
to this day.
On November 14, 1971, His Holiness was enthroned as Pope Shenouda III,
the 117th Pope of Alexandria, and successor of the see of St. Mark.
2 - Early Life
His Holiness Pope Shenouda II
was born the youngest of eight children on August 3, 1923 in the Upper Egyptian
province of Assyut, and was named Nazeer Gayed. By the age of sixteen, Nazeer
began service in the Sunday School of St. Anthony's Church in Shobra, Cairo,
where he also went to school.
In 1943, Nazeer entered the University of Cairo and completed a Bachelor
of Arts in English and History while he spent his summer vacations at the
Monastery of St. Mary (Souryan). Although at this time only graduate students
were admitted to the evening classes at the Coptic Theological Seminary,
Dean Archdeacon Habib Guirguis admitted Nazeer while he was still in his
final year of undergraduate study.
After graduation from the University of Cairo in 1947, Nazeer completed
his military service and began work as a teacher of English and History. Meanwhile,
he completed his Bachelor of Theology and the Dean appointed him as lecturer
in the Old and New Testaments. In 1950 Nazeer resigned from his secular employment
to take a full-time lecturing position. In 1953, he was appointed a lecturer
at the Monastic College in Helwan.
Nazeer and other servants labored for several years to establish a strong
Sunday School and youth group at St. Anthony's Church in Shobra. his service
produced hundreds of devoted servants who began establishing youth groups
in neighboring parishes.
3 - Monastic Life
The road to monasticism
was a natural consequence of the desire from his early years to consecrate
his life to Christ. "...I found in monasticism," Pope Shenouda once said,
"a life of complete freedom and clarification." he joined the Souryan Monastery
in Wadi El-Natroun and, a year later, he was ordained a priest, taking the
name Fr. Antonyos (Anthony) El-Souryani. In 1959, His Holiness Pope Kyrillos
VI appointed Fr. Antonyos as his personal secretary.
On September 30, 1962, Pope Kyrillos VI ordained Fr. Antonyos as Bishop
Shenouda, the first bishop for Christian Education. He became the President
and Dean of the Theological Seminary, and by late 1969 the enrollment of full-time
students doubled and the enrollment of part-time students increased 10 times
its original number. Under his presidency, women were admitted to the College
and several were appointed lecturers. His Grace's efforts were recognized
in 1969 when he was elected President of the Association of Middle East Theological
4 - Enthronement as Pope of Alexandria
On March 9, 1971, His Holiness
Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI departed in peace. The Holy Synod met on March
22 to plan for the election of the new Patriarch. Among the final three
candidates was Bishop Shenouda. On October 31, 1971, the altar ballot was
conducted during the Pix/Dividers/divine Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Reweis.
At the end of the Liturgy, His Eminence Metropolitan Antonyos, laid his hands
on a young boy who was then blindfolded and told to choose one of the three
pieces of paper from the box. The ballot box had been taken from the altar
and placed on an elevated table. As the congregation prayed the Lord's Prayer
and the words "Lord Have Mercy," the boy chose one of the pieces of paper
and gave it to Metropolitan Antonyos, who then joyfully declared God's chosen
shepherd for His church as His Grace Bishop Shenouda, Bishop of Education.
On November 14, 1971, in Saint Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, His Holiness
Pope Shenouda III was enthroned as 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch
of the See of Saint Mark. His Holiness became the first patriarch of Alexandria
since the fifth century to have been Dean of the Theological Seminary. He
continues to lecture at the branches of the Seminary in Cairo, Alexandria,
and abroad and at the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies. To meet the expanding
ministry of Christian education, His Holiness established other branches
of the seminary in Egypt, as well as three graduate institues: Biblical Studies,
Hymnology, and Coptic Language. On November 29, 1993, he officially opened
the Institute of Pastoral Care. For his erudition in theology and scripture,
His Holiness has been awarded four honorary Doctoral Degrees in Theology,
three from American Universities and one from a German University.
His Holiness' edifying and spiritually uplifting sermons have won international
acclaim; in 1978 the Browning Institute awarded him the prize for the best
Christian preacher in the world. His Holiness is also the author of more
than eighty books on a variety of subjects, and over the past 20 years, he
has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Church's official magazine, EL-KERAZA.
5- Pastoral Activities
His Holiness ordained more than
seventy bishops, established general bishoprics, including the first Bishopric
of Youth, more than four hundred priests, and countless deacons for Cairo,
Alexandra and the Churches abroad. This extended the pastoral care to every
city, village and family all over the See of St. Mark. His Holiness continually
holds meetings and seminars with the clergy to discuss any pastoral problems
His Holiness also gives special attention to the service of women in the
Coptic Orthodox Church. "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 teachers 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." His Holiness says.
Despite his many responsibilities, His Holiness usually manages to spend
three days a week in the monastery. His love of monasticism has led to a
monastic revival in the Coptic Church. He has ordained hundreds of monks
and nuns and renovated and reestablished many monasteries and convents. He
is the first Pope to establish Coptic monasteries outside of Egypt, which
presently number eight.
As a Bishop for Christian Education, His Grace has overseen the education
of Sunday School Curriculum, and during his papacy, has continued to hold
meetings for Sunday School teachers to establish a Sunday School curriculum
for the churches abroad.
6- The Exile and Efforts of National Unity
During the early years of his enthronement, His Holiness Pope Shenouda
had an amicable relationship with the late Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat.
However, during his presidency, violent Islamic fundamentalist groups increased
all over Egypt, especially in the Universities. They started to attack the
Copts, vandalize their businesses, and burn their churches, which led Pope
Shenouda to protest to the government against this repeated violence. Sadat
reacted by issuing a presidential decree to exile His Holiness to the Monastery
of St. Bishoy, imprison eight bishops, twenty-four priest, leading Coptic
lay figures, and ban “El-Keraza” magazine and “Watany” newspaper.
Despite having to spend forty months away from his flock, His Holiness
continued to care for his church. He saw the exile as an opportunity for
spiritual retreat and wrote sixteen books during that time.
A month after his decree, Sadat was assassinated by the same fundamentalist
groups. After much effort from His Holiness’ children inside and outside
the Coptic Orthodox Church, and after three and a half years, the succeeding
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, released Pope Shenouda from exile. Accompanied
by many bishops, His Holiness returned to St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo,
where more than ten thousand people filled the Cathedral to receive the Pope.
His Holiness, after praying the Prayer of thanksgiving, greeted the flock
with these words: “I have no residence except in your hearts, which are
full of love. I have never been away from your hearts, not even for a twinkle
of an eye.” He went on to say “I would like to do my best to deepen love,
peace and reconciliation between the Church and the State, between the Church
and our Muslim citizens. We are like organs in the one body, which is Egypt.”
His Holiness works tirelessly to improve relations between the Christians
and Muslims in Egypt, in order to establish a peaceful social environment
and to dispel sectarian Pix/Dividers/divisions. The Pope and the president
of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, are in good relations, as well as with the moderate
Muslims in Egypt.
7- Ecumenical Relations
His Holiness Pope Shenouda 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 for Christian Unity held at Saint Mark's cathedral in Cairo
in 1974, His Holiness declared that: "The whole Christian world is anxious
to see the Church unite. Christian people, being fed up with Pix/Dividers/divisions
and dispersion, are pushing their Church leaders to do something about Church
unity and I am sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us." He has emphasized
that Christian unity must be founded upon a unity of Faith and not upon
a unity of jurisdiction.
Before his enthronement, Bishop Shenouda attended the first unofficial
ecumenical consultation between theologians of the Oriental Orthodox and
the Roman Catholic Churches, in Vienna in September 1971. The agreed statement
included the words: "We believe that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is
God the Son incarnate; perfect in His Pix/Dividers/divinity and perfect in
His humanity. His Pix/Dividers/divinity was not separated from His humanity
for a single moment, not for the twinkling of an eye. His humanity is one
with His Pix/Dividers/divinity without commixture, without confusion, without
Pix/Dividers/division, without separation. We in our common faith in the
one Lord Jesus Christ regard His mystery inexhaustible and ineffable and for
the human mind never fully comprehensible or expressible." (From the Communique
of the first nonofficial ecumenical consultation between theologians of
the Oriental Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches, in 1971).
In May 1973, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III paid a cordial visit to His
Holiness, the late Pope Paul VI in Rome. This was the first meeting between
an Alexandrine and Roman Pontiff since the time of the great schism of 451
AD. Both Popes signed a common Declaration, containing, amongst other things,
a confession of common Faith in the mystery of the Word Incarnate. In welcoming
His Holiness to Rome, the late Pope Paul VI said, "You are indeed the head
of a church whose origin goes back to the Evangelist Mark and which had in
Saint Athanasius...the invincible defender of our common Nicene faith, that
is, faith in the Pix/Dividers/divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ."
In response, His Holiness Pope Shenouda said, "We have to declare that
between us there are many points of agreement in the principles of faith.
As for points of difference, there is no doubt that after fifteen centuries
of study, examination, and controversy, we are at much nearer grounds of
agreement than our ancestors of the fifth and sixth centuries. We are all
more ready and more intense in our desire to reach solutions for differences
and attain simpler expressions of our common faith."
Following this historic encounter, a joint Commission was established to
explore the road to full intercommunion between the two Apostolic Churches.
In June 1989, His Holiness opened the conference of the International Commission
for Inter-Orthodox theological Dialogue. A part of the agreed statement
said: "When we speak of the one composite (synthetos) hypostasis of our
Lord Jesus Christ, we do not say that in Him a Pix/Dividers/divine hypostasis
and a human hypostasis came together. It is that the one eternal hypostasis
of the Second Person of the Trinity has assumed our created human nature
in that act of uniting it with His own uncreated Pix/Dividers/divine nature,
to form an inseparably and unconfusedly united real Pix/Dividers/divine-human
being, the natures being distinguished from each other contemplation (theoria)
only....We agree in condemning the Nestorian and the Eutychian heresies.
We neither separate nor Pix/Dividers/divide the human nature in Christ from
His Pix/Dividers/divine nature, nor do we think that the former was absorbed
in the latter and thus ceased to exist" (First Agreed Statement with the
Byzantine Family of Orthodoxy in 1989).
Until now, His Holiness initiates and closely monitors theological dialogue
with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Swedish Lutheran, and
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. His Holiness is presently one of
the Presidents of the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council
8- The Coptic Church All Over the World
When His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was enthroned, there were only seven
Coptic churches outside of Egypt: two each in Canada, the United States
of America, Australia, and one in England. Due mainly to the efforts and
encouragement of His Holiness, today there are more than 150 churches outside
of Egypt, of which 63 are in the United States. There are two theological
seminaries in the U.S., and a monastery in California. In addition, His
Holiness was the first Pope to ordain Bishops for the Dioceses of North
America. Bishop Karas was ordained for the Monastery of St. Antony's in
California, Bishop Serapion for the Diocese in Los Angeles, Southern California,
and Hawaii, and Bishop Youssef for the Southern United States. There are
14 churches in Canada, and the city of Toronto houses a large Coptic Cultural
Center. In Australia there are 24 churches, a theological college, two secondary
schools, a primary school, two monasteries and a nursing home. There are
six churches in Great Britain, including a large Coptic Center in Birmingham.
There are churches in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There are nine churches
in Germany and a monastery in Frankfurt. There are six churches in France,
four in Austria, four churches and a monastery in Italy, two in Holland,
two in Switzerland, and one church each in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, and
Sweden. In November 1991, the first Coptic Churches were established in South
America, with a church in Brazil and in Argentina. Priests have also been
ordained for churches in the Caribbean, including Bermuda, the Virgin Islands,
and the West Indies.
As head of the oldest Church in Africa, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
has been very keen to extend the Apostolic mission of St. Mark across all
of Africa. There are now 33 Coptic Churches among 12 African tribes in Kenya,
Zaire, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. Nairobi is also the center of
the new Diocese in Kenya.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC) has strong historical ties
with the Coptic Orthodox Church. The two churches have been linked by very
intimate relations since the early centuries of Christianity, as both are
children of St. Mark the Apostle. In 1994, upon request of the EOTC, they
gained Autocephaly (independence)from the Coptic Church. Both Churches still
belong to the See of St. Mark and both confess one Orthodox Doctrine.
Eritrea, upon gaining independence from Ethiopia, received pastoral care
from His Holiness Pope Shenouda by his ordination of Eritrean Bishops to
form the Holy Synod for the Eritrian Orthodox Church.
9- The Papal Visits
His Holiness has made 27 pastoral visits outside of Egypt. The most extensive
tour took place from August to December 1989, when he made an historic 112
day visit to all the Coptic Churches in Europe, the United States, Canada
and Australia. During his trip, His Holiness laid foundation stones of new
Churches, consecrated most of the altars in the churches, baptized hundreds
of children, ordained hundreds of deacons, delivered many lectures at theological
seminaries and universities, opened a theological seminary in New Jersey
and in Los Angeles, and conducted numerous spiritual meetings.
In the United States, the mayor of Jersey City hoisted the Coptic Church
flag side by side with the American flag at City Hall during the Papal visit.
The US House of Representatives invited His Holiness to open a congressional
session with prayer. His Holiness also met with former US President George
Bush and requested that "he give a big push" to peace in the Middle East.
In a previous visit, His Holiness met with former US President Jimmy Carter.
Afterwards His Holiness and Carter became good friends.
We will be blessed by His Holiness' twenty-eighth visit beginning in November
to the United States and other countries abroad in celebration of the silver
anniversary of his enthronement.
He passed away on March 17, 2012 (Baramhat
8, 1728), may His prayers be with us all.. Amen.
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