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Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria (Coptic: , Arabic: البابا شنوده الثالث بابا الإسكندرية وبطريرك الكرازة المرقسية) (born Nazeer Gayed on 3 August 1923, in Asyutmarker, Egyptmarker), is the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He is the head of The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

A graduate of Cairo Universitymarker and the Coptic Orthodox Seminary, Nazeer Gayed became a monk under the name Fr. Antonios the Syrian after joining the Syrian Monasterymarker of the Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos, where he was later elevated to the priesthood.

Pope Cyril VI summoned Fr. Antonios to the patriarchate where he consecrated him General Bishop for Christian Education and as Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary, whereupon he assumed the name Shenouda, which was the name of a Coptic Saint and two previous Popes: Shenouda I (859-880) and Shenouda II (1047–1077).

He has served as Pope of Alexandria since 14 November 1971, presiding over a worldwide expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church. During his papacy, Pope Shenouda III has appointed the first-ever Bishops to preside over North American dioceses that now contain over one hundred and thirty Churches, up from four in 1971, as well as the first Bishops in Australia and the first Coptic Churches and Bishops in South America.

He is known for his commitment to Christian unity and has, since the 1970s, advocated inter-denominational Christian dialogue. He devotes his writings, teachings and actions to spread and propagate for the rules of understanding, peace, dialog and forgiveness.

Early life

Born Nazeer Gayed on 3 August 1923 in Asyut, Upper Egypt, he is the youngest of a family of eight children. By the age of 16, Gayed was active in the Coptic Sunday School movement.

Gayed was very active in his church and served as a Sunday School teacher, first at Saint Anthony's Church in Shoubra and then at Saint Mary's Church in Mahmasha.

After graduating from Cairo Universitymarker with a degree in history, 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.

Monastic life and educational service

On 18 July 1954, Mr. Gayed joined the monastic life at the Syrian Monasterymarker in Scetesmarker; he was given the name of Father Antonios el-Syriani (Anthony the Syrian, or Anthony of the Syrian Monasterymarker). For six years, from 1956 to 1962, he lived in a cave about seven miles away from the monastery, dedicating his time to meditation, prayer, and asceticism. Antonios el-Syriani was among the candidates nominated for the papal throne in 1956, but Pope Cyril VI was ultimately chosen for the post.

Later, at the Syrian Monasterymarker, he became a monastic priest under the name of Fr. Antonios el-Syriani. He lived as a hermit.

Consecration as a Bishop

On 30 September 1962, Pope Cyril VI appointed Fr. Antonios the Syrian to the bishopric of Christian Education and as Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary, whereupon he called him Shenouda. The relevance of the name emanates from the fact that the most renowned scholar and writer in Coptic was Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite.

Under Bishop Shenouda's leadership, the number of students at the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary tripled. Bishop Shenouda was suspended in 1966 by Pope Cyril VI.[28028], [28029] This was essentially the result of Bishop Shenouda's (as well as his students') enthusiastic 'campaigns for change' that used rather strong words, such as supporting peoples' right to choose their bishops and priests, a principle that Bishop Shenouda later applied when he became Pope of Alexandria. This conflict between Pope Cyril VI and Bishop Shenouda was later resolved.

Enthroning as Pope of Alexandria

He was enthroned as Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark on 14 November 1971, nearly 9 months after the death of Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria.

The ceremony was the first and as yet the only enthroning of a Coptic Pope to take place in the new Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedralmarker in Cairo.

Enthroning a Bishop as Pope

Some Coptic adherents argue that the choice of Pope Shenouda III as Pope (and Bishop) of the City of Alexandria is not canonical (against Canon 15 of Nicea and other Church Councils and Canons), because Pope Shenouda was already a bishop (without episcopate) in the 1960s.[28030], [28031] However, there are also modern day examples from other Churches of patriarchs who were previously bishops before their election as patriarchs, e.g., Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

This issue has caused an ongoing dispute since 1928 in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and although the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church has considered in the 1960s the General Bishops to be secretaries to the Pope in the degree of a Bishop, Pope Shenouda III, who was a general Bishop before, is sometimes considered to be the fourth Bishop to become a Pope after Popes John XIX (1928–1942), Macarius III (1942–1944) and Joseph II (1946–1956).

The Ethiopian Church Crisis

Following the arrest, imprisonment and subsequent execution of Abune Tewophilos, Patriarch of Ethiopiamarker, by the Marxist Derg regime that had deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, Pope Shenouda III refused to recognize the cleric who was installed as the Ethiopian Patriarch's successor. He (and the holy Synode) argued that the removal of Patriarch Abune Tewophilos was illegal and un-canonical (as it is an act of political interference), and that in the eyes of the Church of Alexandria and the Pope of Alexandria, Abune Tewophilos remained the legitimate Patriarch of Ethiopia.

As the government of Ethiopiamarker refused to acknowledge that the Patriarch had been executed, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria refused to recognize any other Patriarch as long as Abune Tewophilos was not confirmed dead. Thus formal ties between the Churches of Alexandria and Ethiopia were severed although they remain in full communion. Formal relations between the two churches resumed on 13 July 2007.

Period of exile

Political stances

After the war of 1967, the Israelis confiscated from the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of Jerusalem and All the Near East some of its properties within the compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchremarker and also the Coptic Monastery in Jerusalem (known as Deir El-Sultan), which was confiscated from the possession of the Coptic Orthodox Church and relegated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Upon the application of some Bishops, the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, based on the direction of the Pope, has decided not to allow the Copts to visit Jerusalem, until the Church possessions and the Monastery be returned back to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

A Holy Synod decree issued in 2006 urged Copts not to visit the Christian holy places in Israelmarker, including Jerusalemmarker.[28032] According to that decree, such Copts are automatically banned from receiving Holy Communion in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Pope Shenouda III has repeatedly declared that Christians must only visit Jerusalem hand in hand with their Muslim brothers after the conflict with Israel is resolved (peacefully and fairly) for all parties, including giving back the Coptic Churches and Monastery in Jerusalem.

Theological disputes

Pope Shenouda III has been involved in theological disagreements with Father Matta El-Meskeen concerning the issue of theosis.

As result of the disagreement with Father Matta El Meskeen, Pope Shenouda III published eight booklets explaining his view of theosis. Pope Shenouda taught others about the issue in the theological seminary of Cairomarker and also in the seminary of Alexandriamarker.

After the departure of Father Matta El-Meskeen, there were warnings issued by Pope Shenouda III against his teachings published in El-Keraza Magazine. They can be found in both English and Arabic.

Supervised worldwide growth of the Church

The papacy of Pope Shenouda III has seen a worldwide expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria: while there were only four Coptic Orthodox churches in all of North America in 1971, today there are more than two hundred.

The growth of the Americanmarker Coptic Orthodox Church has been such that in 1995, Pope Shenouda established the first two dioceses and installed Diocesan Bishops for the United States, one for Los Angeles, Californiamarker and the other for the Southern United States plus two General Bishops, Exarchs of the Throne in the Archdiocesan Center of North America in New Jersey.

In the Caribbeanmarker, Mission churches have been founded in Bermudamarker, St. Kittsmarker, and in the U.S.marker Virgin Islandsmarker in St. Thomasmarker.

Moreover, Pope Shenouda's tenure has also included the founding of the first Coptic Orthodox Church in South America (in São Paulomarker, Brazilmarker), and the second, in Boliviamarker. In February 2006, Pope Shenouda visited and consecrated the church of St. Mark in São Paulo, Brazil and the church of St. Mary and St. Mark in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Later, on the Feast of Pentcost 2006, the two monk priests of the two churches were consecrated bishops, Bishop Agathon of Brazil and Bishop Youssef of Bolivia.

In Australia and New Zealandmarker, there are currently 28 churches, and in 1999, Shenouda enthroned Bishop Suriel, the first bishop for Melbourne, Canberra, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand. Recently, Bishop Suriel established two churches in Fijimarker.

In 1994, under the guidance of Pope Shenouda III, the British Orthodox Church, which was originally established in 1866 as a part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, became canonically part of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. At the feast of the Pentecost that same year, Pope Shenouda ordained Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury as Metropolitan for the British Orthodox Church, and thus joined the British Orthodox Church, as an Autonomous Church, into the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

In June 2002, Bishop Daniel was officially consecrated and appointed the first bishop with jurisdiction for the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory, as well as South and North East Asia.

In Europe, there are currently over fifty churches and ten bishops. Africa currently has two bishops serving, as Patriarchal Exarchs, in missions in nine African countries.

When Eritreamarker gained political independence from Ethiopiamarker, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki requested that the local Church be made independent from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which required a Patriarch enthroned by the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria.

Previously, the church in Eritrea was an Archdiocese of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. The Patriarch and Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church reluctantly agreed to the elevation of the Church in Eritrea. Pope Shenouda III thus anointed the first Patriarch of Eritrea with the name Patriarch Philip I (Abuna Philipos of Eritrea). This was the second consecration of a Patriarch by the Pope of Alexandria in the twentieth century (the first Patriarchal consecration in the twentieth century occurred when Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria consecrated the first Catholicos-Patriarch of Ethiopia in 1959.)

Commitment to Christian Unity

In 1973, Pope Shenouda III became the first Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria to meet the Pope of Rome in over 1500 years. In this visit, Popes Shenouda III and Pope Paul VI signed a common declaration on the issue of Christology and agreed to further discussions on Christian unity. There have also been dialogues with various Protestant churches worldwide.

Pope Shenouda III 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 in 1974, he declared, "The whole Christian world is anxious to see the church unite. Christian people, being fed up with divisions, are pushing their church leaders to do something about church unity and I am sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us."

Under his leadership, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has become a full member of the World Council of Churchesmarker, the Middle East Council of Churches, the All-African Council of Churches, the National Council of the Churches in Christ in the U.S.A., the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Australian Council of Churches. In May 2000, he established the Office of Ecumenical Affairs, in the Archdiocese of North America.

Pope Shenouda III has emphasized Christian Unity in his work, believing it to be founded upon a unity of faith and not of jurisdiction. As a result, he has paid many visits to the various sister Orthodox churches and their patriarchs, such as those of Constantinople, Moscow, Romania, and Antioch, with the goal of a full communion of these churches with the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

He also won, in the year 2000, the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence by UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura on the recommendation of an international jury.

In 2006, during the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he said that while admitting that he hadn't heard the exact words used by Pope, "any remarks which offend Islam and Muslims are against the teachings of Christ."

In 2007, he criticized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's declaration on "Subsistit in" in Lumen Gentium.

Writings and lectures

Pope Shenouda III has been the editor-in-chief of El-Keraza Magazine, the official publication of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, since 1962. He became the first Patriarch of Alexandria since the fifth century to have been head of the Theological Seminary and continues to lecture at the Seminary branches in Cairomarker, Alexandriamarker and several other Theological Seminaries created in different dioceses in Egypt and abroad, and at the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies. He also established other branches of the Seminary in Egypt as well as abroad. Pope Shenouda is also the author of over 100 books.

In his new book, " Have You Seen the One I Love", Pope Shenouda contemplates the Song of Songs.

See also

His Grace Bishop Mena (Menas), Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Fresno.


External links

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