On 25 April, as the Coptic Orthodox Church solemnly marked the fortieth day after the death of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III with prayers throughout the world, and a Special Service in St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, the British Orthodox Church throughout the United Kingdom joined them in this solemn commemoration.
In a letter sent to His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomious, the Patriarchal locum tenens, Abba Seraphim wrote, “As today marks the fortieth day after the death of our beloved father, Pope Shenouda III, I wanted to assure you that the clergy and people of the British Orthodox stand alongside their brethren in Egypt in prayers for his repose. He was to us a very special father when he welcomed the British Orthodox Church back to its roots in the Oriental Orthodox family of churches and gave us encouragement and support for our mission to bring the Orthodox Faith to the British people. For this reason he will always have a very special place in our hearts.
As the Church now prepares herself for the task of discerning the Lord’s will for the future and finding a new shepherd to sit upon the Throne of St. Mark, we assure you of our prayers for the heavy responsibilities you have been given, asking that Almighty God will grant you strength and wisdom in the exercise of your duties. Once again, our prayers are joined with our brethren in Egypt that the widowhood of the Church of Alexandria will not be long and that we may enjoy the blessing of a new Pope chosen by the hand of God.”
On the eve of the fortieth day, Abba Seraphim gave a special interview about Pope Shenouda, which is now available on British Orthodox TV.
Father Simon Smyth of the Bournemouth and South-Coast churches shared this message:
SOUTH COAST CHURCHES MOURN HIS HOLINESS
In the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth, the photographs of our beloved patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda, were veiled in black with lighted candles and a cross placed in front. The tone of sadness and loss that Father Simon had heard from so many the previous evening as he had ‘phoned to tell them the news could not be hidden during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the hymn “For all the saints who from their labours rest” was sung with real meaning and depth of feeling by the congregation.
Father Simon then stood before the veiled photograph and read an extract from His Holiness’ book The Release of the Spirit:
“what can we say about the father bishops each of whom will be asked by God about nearly two hundred thousands or more whether priests or lay-men? …pray for them earnestly that God may help them carry out their duties… Remember how the holy monks used to escape from this position because of its fearful responsibility. And when one of them was taken by force and ordained as bishop he cried out weeping before God and saying, ‘O Lord, you know that I left the world and went to the monastery to seek my own salvation.. But now I return to the world though I have not attained salvation yet and is required to save others also… What about our fathers the Patriarchs, each one of whom God will ask about ten million in Egypt and much more in” the West and around trhe world. “My brethren, you ought to pray for every Patriarch that he may be able to perform his duties and give a good reply to God when He asks him about his own soul and the souls of the bishops, priests, deacons, monks and laymen… and about keeping the church laws and spreading the Orthodox faith all over the world… do not look to God’s ministers and to those who hold any responsibilities just like spectators praising them when they do good and condemning them when they do wrong… You rather pray for them…”
The morning worship ended with the Memorial Service and the singing of “Give rest, O Christ, Thou light of Light Eternal”:
“Though o’er the grave, for loved ones, still we sorrow,
Yet we may commune with them while we’re waiting,
And, in the joyful hope of that ‘tomorrow’:
Sing Alleluia !”
The Portsmouth Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black was represented by Reader James Kelly who spoke briefly and movingly of meeting Pope Shenouda in Egypt in late 2010. The Southampton Mission of Saint Polycarp was represented by Mary Goodchild. Both in Southampton and Portsmouth the congregations also veiled photos of Pope Shenouda in black and lit candles before them for their Memorial Services.
Archdeacon Alexandar writes on behalf of the Cusworth, Doncaster Congregation
“His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was remembered in prayers at the Sunday Liturgy of the Church at Cusworth, as were the people of Egypt and the authorities tasked with governing the Church until a new Pope is elected. After the Liturgy special memorial prayers were also offered for the repose of our late Pope’s soul.”
The Babingley, Norfolk congregation had to cancel their Sunday Raising of Incense and Divine Liturgy service, due to Abba Seraphim leaving for Cairo. But they instead held a prayer service for His Holiness lead by Deacon Mark and Deacon Christopher Barnes.
Father Peter Farrington of the Chatham, Maidstone congregation writes
“The congregation of St Alban and St Athanasius Orthodox Chuch in Chatham prayed for the repose of His Holiness during the Liturgy, and then offered prayers for him after the Liturgy in the form of the Panikhida (Memorial prayer service).”
Other messages of support were received from other denominations in the UK
Father Marcus Brisley, Parish of the Annunciation and St. Edmund Campion, Bournemouth writes:
On behalf of myself and my parish I would like to pass on sincere condolences to you and your community at the Church of Christ the Saviour on the death of His Holiness Pope Shenoudah III. A charismatic leader who was used by the Lord to continue the great movement of spiritual renewal within the Coptic Church, he has guided his people in a time of challenge and difficulty. I therefore sense how deeply you and all his spiritual children will feel your loss. May the Lord receive him with mercy and reward him for his labours, comforting Coptic Christians as you mourn and raising up a worthy successor to shepherd you.
With prayers and best wishes in Christ
There were other supporters and well wishers who share their prayers and kind thoughts for H.H. Pope Shenouda III and the families of Egypt.
Abba Seraphim and His Grace Bishop Angaelos arrived on the same flight at Cairo airport at 5.15 a.m. local time.
Abba Seraphim was met at the airport by Shenouda Mamdouh, his secretary in Egypt. The Holy Synod will meet at noon at the Patriarchate. after which details of the arrangements for the Pope’s funeral will be announced. Metropolitan Mikhael of Assuit, the senior Metropolitan (consecrated by Pope Yousab II in 1946) will preside.
The Supreme Military Council has granted Coptic Christians a three day holiday to enable them to pay their respects to His Holiness.
The embalmed body of His Holiness, fully vested in pontifical vestments, had been transferred to St. Mark’s Cathedral and is seated on his throne. The staff of the Papal Residence have been admitted before the general public come to bid farewell to the Pope.
The Sunday morning Liturgy is being celebrated in St. Mark’s Cathedral with the body of His Holiness presiding from the throne. Metropolitan Bakhomious of Beheira is the principal celebrant.
Update 11.37am: Bishop Moussa told mourners at the cathedral that Pope Shenouda would be buried at the Bishoy Monastery after the funeral in Cairo on Tuesday at 11am.
Update: 12pm: Abba Seraphim will be attending a Monday Liturgy. Tuesday is the Pope’s funeral, followed by reception of condolences from the government and religious visitors. The Synod will meet again on Thursday.
The half yearly meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum took place at the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre at Stevenage on 10 January under the co-chairmanship of His Grace Bishop Angaelos and The Right Rev’d Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. Among other bishops attending were Their Eminences Metropolitan Seraphim (British Orthodox Church) and Archbishop Mar Athanasios (Syrian Orthodox Church) representing the Oriental Orthodox Churches and The Right Rev’d Andrew Proud, Bishop Suffragan of Reading representing the Anglican Church.
As usual the meeting was conducted in a positive spirit of fellowship and practical ways of ensuring closer co-operation between the two traditions explored. Bishop Proud, having previously served as Area Bishop for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, offered some insightful reflections on Orthodoxy and the Ethiopian Church, which were much appreciated by all present. In return Bishop Angaelos updated the forum on recent events in Egypt and Archbishop Athanasios did the same for Syria and Iraq.