News

Coptic Pope Laid to Rest as Transition Looms

Egyptian senior clerics pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2012.
Egyptian senior clerics pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott

Religious, political and military leaders gathered to pay tribute Tuesday to the late Coptic patriarch Shenouda III, whose death Saturday plunged Egypt's minority Coptic community into grief at a critical time for Egypt's faithful.

Weeping openly, priests chanted and recited prayers at Pope Shenouda's funeral at Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral. The gathering's diverse composition - from generals, sheikhs and billionaires to artists, activists and presidential hopefuls - was a testament to the late patriarch's wide influence and appeal.

Security was heavy, with dignitaries arriving at the invitation-only event by navigating crowds of thousands gathered outside.

For the many Copts on hand, losing their long-time leader just as Egypt enters a fractious political transition dominated by Islamists, an anonymous woman's voice picked up by church microphones evoked a broader concern.

"I'll not tell you I'm not scared,” the unidentified voice said, "but he will be there to pray for us."

With clouds of incense wafting through the cathedral, Shenouda was praised as a man who led the Church for four decades, reaching out across religious lines.

Yosry el-Ezbawy, a scholar of Coptic issues at Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Shenouda's successor will have a hard time replicating the delicate balancing act the late pope maintained.

"This will be the main issue facing the next patriarch," Ezbawy argued, "especially as the Islamist parties in power work to shape the new constitution in their favor."

Watch related video

In one of many signs of respect for Shenouda, Islamist lawmakers chastised a handful of members who refused to honor the pope during a session of parliament Monday.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, long complained of discrimination under the last government. But inequality can be found in the current legal framework, where even gestures of homage can show insensitivity: When state television announced official mourning for Shenouda, it played verses from the Quran.

El-Ezbawy said Shenouda tried to overcome Copts' marginal status in part by stressing the commonality of his countrymen.

"One of the pope's favorite sayings," El-Ezbawy recalled, "was 'Egypt is not a homeland where we reside, but a homeland that resides in us.'"

He also noted the pope's emphasis on Arab solidarity, pointing to the pope's ties to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and his directive to Copts not to visit Jerusalem because of Israeli annexation.

After the funeral, Shenouda's body was taken to St. Bishoy's for burial, the desert monastery where then-President Anwar Sadat banished him in the early 1980s, in part because of his stand on Israel.

The monastery is expected to be open in coming days to mourners paying last respects, as Egypt's Coptic Christians wonder whether their next leader will be able to navigate the country's turbulent political and religious waters the way Shenouda did.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: NVO
March 20, 2012 9:20 AM
Again, the Bible teaches that it is Scripture that is to be used as measuring stick to determine truth from error. In Galatians 1:8-9; Paul states that it is not WHO teaches but WHAT is being taught that is to be used to determine truth from error. While the Roman Catholic Church continues to pronounce a curse to hell, or “anathema,” upon those who would reject the authority of the pope, Scripture reserves that curse for those who would teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs