Gregorios III: Shenouda III or the spiritual strength and pastoral outreach of Coptic monasticism

“We have lost a friend with whom we have been linked for very many years. As early as the 1960s, before his election to head his Church in 1971, the future Shenouda III was collaborating with our ecumenical review Al Wahdat fil Iman (Unity in Faith), bringing to it his ever lucid and deep vision.”

Just back from a fortnight’s round-trip of episcopal conferences and European seats of government, Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem left Beirut on Monday 19 March 2012 for Cairo to take part in the national funeral of Shenouda III thus expressing the attachment for and closeness of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

“Shenouda III was the Patriarch of the biggest Orthodox Church of the Middle East, incarnating in his person all the history of his Church,” Gregorios III declared before hailing “the presence of the Coptic Church in the Arab world, its spiritual strength, its monasticism and its pastoral outreach that Shenouda III so perfectly incarnated. This Church, as Mgr Elias Zoghby, for a long time patriarchal vicar in Cairo, once said, is the only non-Catholic Church that has understood how to renew itself without ever losing sight of consistency with itself. We are very keen especially to welcome the various moves towards closer understanding especially in formulating the tricky but vital areas of doctrine to do with the Council of Chalcedon or indeed the Incarnation. A tangible sign of this increasing closeness between the Holy See and the Coptic Orthodox Church was the signing in Rome on 10 May 1973 of the Common Declaration of Faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God and the participation of Pope Paul VI in the building of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.

“Shenouda III was a Patriarch who was a very deep spiritual thinker but who knew how to make his thoughts accessible to everyone, through his memorable sermons and homilies, aided by a wit and sense of humour that were quite Pharaonic and Egyptian.”

Patriarch Gregorios III then recalled the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord in Cairo according to the Coptic tradition, which he had never missed since his election to the Melkite Greek Catholic See of Antioch in 2000 and which had enabled him to be alongside Shenouda III, before joining his “prayer to that of the whole Coptic Orthodox Church for the repose of the soul of its late lamented shepherd and for the Holy Spirit to illumine hearts so that the designated successor might allow the Coptic Church to pursue its very special mission.”

Rabweh, 19 March 2012

Note: His Beatitude was accompanied on his visit to Cairo for Pope Shenouda’s funeral, by Archbishops Elias Shakour and George Bakar, and by the Patriarchal Chancellor, Archimandrite Tony Dib. On his first day in Cairo, Patriarch Gregorios III gave an interview of an hour’s duration to CTV on the subject of his friend and fellow-pastor, the late, great Pope Shenouda III.

V. C.