A statement has just been received from His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy, General Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, announcing the death of His Holiness Pope Shenouda on 17 March 2012
Further announcements will follow shortly.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III died at 5.15 p.m. He suffered a heart attack, but was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Copts all over the world are joining the mourning. Abba Seraphim, along with other Coptic clergy are on their way to Cairo to attend an urgent synod.
On Saturday evening, thousands of Copts gathered in the courtyard of Abbasiya Cathedral aiming to pay their last respects to the deceased patriarch. “We are not sure when this will be possible,” said one source. “Perhaps tomorrow.”
Another source indicated that no one would be admitted into the presence of the dead pope until the day of the funeral, “which will be held on Tuesday, three days from now, to make time for followers of the pope to come form across Egypt and from abroad.”
By Saturday evening, most presidential hopefuls, who had by and large made an effort to frequent Coptic mass since the end of the Mubarak regime, were offering their condolences.
“With one or two exceptions we expect all presidential hopefuls to be present in the funeral mass,” added the source, indicating that all state bodies, political parties and groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, had already contacted the church. “Many have been asking how they might pay their respects and participate in the funeral mass.”
Meanwhile, official and church sources said a high level state representation is scheduled for the funeral mass. The head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, is expected to be at the cathedral to offer his condolences, while SCAF’s second in command, Sami Annan, is expected to be present throughout the mass.
Tantawi decreed three days of official mourning for Copts.
Annan and several SCAF members were invited to attend Christmas Mass on 6 January despite the outrage of the Coptic public at the military’s conspicuous involvement in the tragedy that befell Coptic demonstrators on 9 October while they protested a series of attacks on Coptic churches across Egypt.
Diplomats and some foreign dignitaries are expected at the funeral which will probably take place at the Abbassiya Cathedral before the coffin is taken to the monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun for burial.
“We offer our deep condolences to every one of our Christian brothers for the loss of Pople Shenouda,” Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie said in a statement. “May God help all our Christian brothers overcome this ordeal and bring a successor who can keep promoting the sense of unity between all citizens,” he added.
An Egyptian army statement said that the Pope was a “rare statesman who worked with all of his energy to promote the wellbeing of the nation.”
Bishop Bakhomious (Pachomious) of Behera will head the Coptic Orthodox church for an interim period of two months. The General Congregation Council, which is part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, will nominate three bishops, one of which is to succeed Pope Shenouda III.
The names of the three bishops will be written on three papers, and a child will pick one, unseen, from a box. This method is used in order for the “will of God” to play a role in the process.
Pope Shenouda is trending on Twitter worldwide as people report the news.
BBC News report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17416429
BBC News Obituary: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17416731
Photographs taken from Cairo: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2012/03/snaps-from-cairo-after-the-demise-of-pope-shenouda-iii/
Pope Shenouda’s body is presented on his Papal throne: http://www.egyptindependent.com/node/718671
Who will be the successor to Pope Shenouda? http://www.egyptindependent.com/node/718491
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley has traditionally invited a guest speaker to give an address and this year, during the service of the Raising of Evening Incense, Dr. Michael Kennedy spoke on “Change for the Better: Ecumenism and the Orthodox Concept of Salvation.” In introducing him Abba Seraphim noted that he not only served as a Subdeacon at the BOC Chatham Church and had a distinguished secular career as a university lecturer, but was still an active artist and artists were capable of viewing the world in a way which gave prominence to spirituality.
In his address Dr. Kennedy noted that when one thinks of the Orthodox Churches perhaps the last thing that comes to mind is the word ‘change’. Orthodoxy seems to be the epitome of that which is changeless and to the visitor Orthodox worship probably appears timeless. The Orthodox Liturgy may feel timeless in the sense that it generally continues far longer than most Western church services, but there is also a sense of timelessness in that the ancient liturgical forms are preserved and cherished. A visit to an Orthodox monastery, for example to one of the Coptic monasteries in the Egyptian desert, prompts feelings of going back in time, of nothing really changing, of a deeper more ancient life of prayer and worship. “For many people this perceived timelessness is no doubt attractive. There is security in the unchanging, a sense of knowing where we are, of knowing that ‘God is in his heaven and all is right with the world’. But it doesn’t take much exposure to the Christian faith to realise that this security is an illusion, a comforting one but an illusion nonetheless. Like education, Christianity is all about change.”
He then quoted from patristic and modern sources, especially H.H. Pope Shenouda, to explain the process by which salvation is achieved, “The Orthodox understanding of salvation asks us not to see it as a simple one-off event, something that has already happened in the past but rather to see it is an on-going process. Furthermore we must get involved ourselves. However contemplative we are by nature or inclination we must collaborate with God. The principal means of doing this is through the church into which we must be baptised and we must build on this sacrament, this means of grace, day by day. So we must be changed and we change ourselves, little by little, through prayer, through study, through sacraments, especially the sacrament of repentance, and through good works. All of these are important and I suggest that we miss the point if we believe that our salvation is already accomplished and we need do nothing further. Salvation understood as a union with God is the goal of Orthodox Christian faith, the end to which our life of prayer and worship aspires.”
Regrettably, attendance by the Babingley clergy was restricted by illness. Deacon Mark Saunders was unable to attend as his wife, Sybil, had only just been discharged from hospital having been suffering from pneumonia and Subdeacon Roger-Kenneth Player had only been discharged from Papworth hospital the previous day following heart surgery. Abba Seraphim had visited him at home and prayed for him earlier in the day. However, the service was well attended and Abba Seraphim was assisted by Father Peter Farrington, Deacon Christopher Barnes, Deacon Theodore de Quincey and Readers Daniel Malyon and Roman Benchak.
On 8 January Abba Seraphim ordained Roman Ivanovich Benchak to serve as a Reader at St. Athanasios & St. Alban Parish at Chatham. Roman is a Russian who has been worshipping for some time with the British Orthodox and during his homily Abba Seraphim commented that although the Russian Orthodox Church was a relative ‘newcomer’ to Orthodoxy it had made an amazing contribution to the world, with its profound spirituality and great catalogue of saints and martyrs, especially those who had struggled to keep the Orthodox faith alive during a difficult history, from the Tartar Yoke to more recently, the darkness of atheistic communism. What a rich schoolmaster it had proved to bring Roman to Christ. In entering into service in the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Patriarchate, Roman becomes the ‘firstfruits’ of the full reunion we all long to see between the two families of Orthodoxy and a witness to our common faith and adherence to the same Apostolic Tradition.
Abba Seraphim noted that today in Stevenage His Grace Bishop Angaelos was holding a special Memorial Service for all the Coptic Christians who have lost their lives – indeed become martyrs – in the recent troubles which preceded and took place during the Revolution: from, El Kosheh, Nag Hammadi, Al-Qidiseen in Alexandria to Maspero. Although unable to be there personally, he had directed all British Orthodox congregations to make similar commemorations and to join in prayer and in spirit with that service. Thankfully this Nativity Feast has passed off in Egypt peacefully but these are still uncertain times. He noted that His Holiness Pope Shenouda had invited representatives of all political parties to join the Christmas celebration; which was right as Christians can show no hate, even for those who have treated them cruelly, especially as the Eucharist is about union with God and the spirit of forgiveness and new life in Christ; so all must be welcome. Yet we do not forget those whose lives have been sacrificed and whose blood is a witness of injustice. At this time we also called for prayer for the Christians of Syria, who are suffering because of the unrest there.
At the invitation of The Waterloo Place Group, a private luncheon club composed of School Chaplains, Abba Seraphim spoke on 10 November at The Athenaeum Club in London. His subject was the background to the current situation of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. Briefly tracing the political history of Egypt since the 1952 Revolution, Abba Seraphim spoke about the outrages of El Kosheh (New Year’s Eve, 1999) and Nag Hammadi (Christmas Eve 2010) leading to the acceleration of events over the past twelve months. Throughout all the terrible events of this period and the uncertainty of the future, the message of His Holiness Pope Shenouda has been clear, “We do not know anything concerning the future. The Lord said: Do not care for tomorrow, tomorrow cares for itself. The future is in the hands of God not ours.”
Many people were killed and hundreds were injured in Cairo on Sunday, 9 October when police and armed forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a peaceful march, beginning in the suburb of Shoubra, to protest at the recent destruction of St. George’s Coptic church in El Marinab, Aswan. This had taken place after Friday prayers on Friday, when the dome, walls and columns of the church were demolished and set on fire. In addition to drawing attention to the attack on the church in Aswan, the demonstrators were also requesting an effective conclusion to investigations into several sectarian attacks, and the passing of a new law governing the building of churches,
Members of the security forces surrounded and attacked the Cairo marchers as soon as they arrived at the state television station in Cairo’s Maspero suburb. The marchers claimed that they were pelted by people within the TV station itself. Most of the casualties suffered gunshot wounds. Others victims were severely beaten. However, several died or were seriously injured when members of the security forces deliberately drove at the 150,000-strong crowd in armoured vehicles.
In a worrying development, while the attack was underway, the security forces are reported to have forcibly closed at least two independent media sources, while state television broadcast statements inciting against “Coptic protesters”. These included claims that the security forces were protecting the TV station from “angry” Copts, that the allegedly armed marchers had killed one officer and injured 20 others, that “foreign agendas” were at work, and a call for people to take to the streets in order to “protect” the army. In a possible response to the latter, men in civilian clothing were later spotted amongst security personnel as they attacked protesters, and Cairo’s Coptic Hospital, which received most of the dead and injured, came under a two-hour attack by a group of men who approached the premises chanting “Islamiya, Islamiya”.
The next day, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, chaired by Pope Shenouda III and attended by 70 metropolitans and bishops, the following statement was issued:
The Holy Synod was troubled by the incidents that happened yesterday, Sunday; the martyrdom of more than 24 Christians and the wounding of 200 during their peaceful march.
While stressing our Christian faith rejecting violence in all its forms, we cannot neglect that strangers might infiltrate among our sons and commit mistakes that are attributed to the latter.
Still Copts see that their problems are consistently repeated without punishment or legal action against their aggressors or implementation of radical solutions to these problems. The Holy Synod invites the Coptic people to pray and fast for three days starting tomorrow Tuesday so that the Lord dwells with His peace in our beloved country Egypt.
In solidarity with the Mother Church in Egypt, His Eminence Abba Seraphim, has commended this spiritual discipline to members of the British Orthodox Church and asked that services of commemoration for those who lost their lives in Cairo should be held in all churches and missions. “Our hearts go out to all the friends and families of the departed as well as for the many injured. As Christians we deplore all violence and under the wise guidance of H.H. Pope Shenouda we have been taught that our protests must always be peaceful. The Church respects the authorities but also asks that justice and the rule of law should be upheld. Without that it becomes increasingly difficult to rebuild a society in which all people of faith can co-exist harmoniously to ensure the stability and unity for which all decent people long.”
Photo source: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/main/