Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Memoriam: Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria

Our father Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of eighty-eight. Born the eighth child of a devout Upper Egyptian family in 1923, the future successor of St. Mark became involved as a youth in the life of the Church, and particularly in the Sunday School movement. He later studied history and theology in Cairo before retreating to the desert of Scetis in 1954 to join the 'Syrian Monastery' of the Mother of God, where he was tonsured with the name Anthony.

In 1962 Pope Cyril VI the Wonderworker consecrated Fr. Anthony to the episcopacy with the name of Shenouda and appointed him dean of the Coptic Orthodox theological seminary in Cairo. Under Bishop Shenouda's guidance the size of the Seminary's student body tripled, and when Pope Cyril VI reposed in 1971 Bishop Shenouda was elected to succeed him as head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

During Pope Shenouda's forty-one year papacy the Coptic Orthodox Church grew both in Africa and in the Egyptian Diaspora, with numerous new churches and dioceses being established throughout the world. Like his predecessor St. Athanasius, Pope Shenouda was exiled to the desert for his protests against policies of the state in Egypt and throughout his life advocated for the rights of his flock in the country.

After months of illness due to old age Pope Shenouda reposed peacefully in Cairo this past Saturday at the age of eighty-eight. In accordance with his last wishes he is to be buried in the Monastery of St. Paisius (or Bishoy) in Wadi al-Natrun. More on Pope Shenouda's life, as well as some of his sermons, may be found here. May his memory be eternal!

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