Cairo is entering its third day since the death of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on Saturday. Thousands of people flocked to Cairo to pay homage to their departed Father.
It is reported that three people in the crowds of thousands died yesterday, due to heat exhaustion. Abba Seraphim witnessed the crowds on attempting to visit His Holiness, realising the long wait ahead instead attended the meeting of the Holy Synod. Bishop Angealos of the Coptic Church in Stevenage reports on the crowds via Twitter saying:
“A sea of people around St Mark
#Coptic Cathedral in Cairo going to farewell their father #PopeShenouda, on the patriarchal throne in state.”
At the joint meeting of the Holy Synod held on the 19th of March, it was announced that Metropolitan Mikhael had asked to be excused from presiding because of his advanced age and had proposed that Metropolitan Bakhomious should preside instead. Also attending were members of the Maglis Milli, the Coptic community council.
Reports from Cairo this morning say that two months ago, His Holiness sensing the nearness of this departure, ordered Metropolitan Bakhomious to start construction of his tomb at St. Bishoy’s monastery. This was completed three days ago. Video of the tomb can be seen here.
The burial place at St. Bishoy’s monastery was originally constructed as a museum for the monastery’s historic artefacts but was awaiting His Holiness’ instructions before opening it. In consultation with Bishop Sarabamoun, Abbot of St. Bishoy, Metropolitan Bakhomios decided that it would be a fitting resting place for the Pope and the necessary changes were commenced. It is reported that large numbers of monks from surrounding monasteries in the Wadi El Natrun are converging on St. Bishoy’s monastery and that people are already erecting tents in the monastery’s vicinity in expectation of Tuesday’s burial of His Holiness.
Abba Seraphim regrets that his was indisposed during the night, so wasn’t able to attend the mass this morning at the Cathedral. He will be resting today and expects to be at the funeral tomorrow.
The army, having been invited to assist with crowd control, have soldiers inside St. Mark’s Cathedral this morning guarding the entrance to the sanctuary. As a result, things are much calmer than yesterday. This is the first time that the army has entered the Patriarch’s precincts, previously they were confined to guarding the entrance. This historic decision shows the concern of the Holy Synod for the health and welfare of mourners and it’s desire to ensure that the solemnities are conducted respectfully and with order.
It is reported that Gamel Mubarek, son of the former President, and himself imprisoned, has requested his wife to offer condolences on his behalf at the Pope’s death.
The Liturgy at the Cathedral this morning was led by His Eminence Metropolitan Wissa of Baliena.