Amidst sadness gripping all Egyptians – Christians and Muslims alike, prayers over the deceased pope is beginning on Tuesday morning at the Saint Mark Cathedral in the Cairo district of al-‘Abbāssīyah.
Bishops and top clergymen, who met on Sunday (March 18) for two hours, announced that the pope will be buried in the Bishop Bīshūy Monastery in Wādī al-Natrūn area, where Pope Shenouda used to live during the time of his monasticism.
Leading the prayers over Pope Shenouda will be Bishop Bākhūmius, who is temporarily running church affairs pending the ordainment of a new pope as the Holy Synod announced on Sunday that nominations for the post will start as of Friday (March 23).
Hundreds of thousands of Copts flowed into the cathedral to have the farewell look on the pope who was seated in full patriarch attire on the chair of Saint Mark. [Ashraf Sādiq, al-Ahrām, March 19, p. 1] Read original text in Arabic
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama expressed sadness over the death of Pope Shenouda and described him as a prominent advocate of religious tolerance and dialogue.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also offered condolences to Egyptians over the demise of the pope, adding Washington reiterates support for the future and progress of Egypt.
In the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI of the Roman Catholic Church offered condolences to Egypt and said the Vatican prayed that the Lord would accept Pope Shenouda’s great soul and bestow mercy on him. [Māzin Hassān and Mustafá ‘Abd Allāh, al-Ahrām, March 19, p. 4] Read original text in Arabic
King Ahmad Fū’ād II, the last king of Egypt, expressed heartfelt condolences over Pope Shenouda III whom he considered as “a symbol of patriotism and Egyptian unity,” saying the death of Pope Shenouda, a moderate and tolerant voice in an age of extremism, was a great loss.
“Egypt has lost one of its most honest sons who helped strengthening national unity in Egypt during the past 40 years,” said King Ahmad Fū’ād during a phone call with al-Ahrām newspaper from Switzerland. [Sahar ‘Abd al-Rahman, al-Ahrām, March 19, p. 4] Read original text in Arabic
Presidential candidate Hamdīn Sabbāhī announced that he stopped all activities for his campaign in mourning over Pope Shenouda, offering “sincerest condolences” to Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and the world at large over their “national and spiritual loss”.
Presidential hopeful ‘Amr Mūsá, in a statement on Sunday (March 18), expressed “deep grief” over the death of Pope Shenouda and said Egypt has lost a “great citizen, revered clergyman and a distinguished pioneer of joint Egyptian action”.
‘Abd al-Mun’im Abū al-Futūh, another presidential candidate, offered condolences to Bishop Mūsá of Youth over the phone. Other presidential candidates, Mamdūh Qutb and Husām Khayr Allāh expressed sadness over the pope’s death and said Egypt, with the departure of Pope Shenouda, has lost one of the few influential figures in the nation.
The coordinating commission for presidential candidate Ahmad Shafīq’s election campaign has announced a three-day mourning “over the honorable soul of Pope Shenouda,” urging its members in all governorates to offer condolences. [Ahmad ‘Adlī and Rānyā Rabī’, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, March 19, p. 5] Read text in Arabic
Furthermore, Grand Shaykh of the Azhar Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyīb said the Azhar “feels a great loss and immense catastrophe by the death of great national symbol His Eminence Pope Shenouda III, praying the pope’s successor would continue his message and carry his torch of peace and endearment”. [Dīyā’ Abū al-Sāfā, al-Akhbār, March 19, p. 11] Read text in Arabic
Several parties and political movements expressed deep grief over the death of Pope Shenouda, including al-Wafd Party that voiced mourning in a statement to the Egyptian people – Muslims and Christians – over the departure of “a patriotic leader that was always interested in Egypt and its national issues and a wise man whose sagacity was like a safety valve in face of many attempts to spark sectarian strife and undermine the national unity”.
The Free Egyptians Party also expressed condolences over a “noble man whose march embodied authenticity, wisdom and diligence in protecting Egyptians’ unity”.
Also, the Ghad al-Thawrah (Tomorrow of the Revolution) Party and the April 6 Movement offered condolences to “all Egyptians in general and Christian brothers and the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and abroad in particular over the death of Pope Shenouda”. [Muhammad ‘Antar, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, March 19, p. 5] Read text in Arabic
The announcement of the death of Pope Shenouda has had an effect on relations between Muslims and Copts, who are always united in hard times as a Muslim family in Maghāghah, that had a long feud with a Coptic family in Shārūnah village, embarked in a good gesture on terminating the dispute that claimed the lives of 11 people from both sides in honor of the soul of the deceased pope.
Al-Minya Governor Maj. General Sirāj al-Dīn al-Rūbī said the two families, upon hearing news of the death of Pope Shenouda, agreed to end their feud and also agreed on a dīyah (blood money).
The governor had announced that all flags on all government departments in al-Minya will be raised at half mast for three days. [Māhir ‘Abd al-Sabūr, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, March 19, p. 2] Read text in Arabic
The Alexandria urgent matters court (First Circle) has adjourned the case of the Two Saints Church, filed by the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral and the families of martyrs and wounded persons, to the April 8 session upon the request of the church lawyer in light of the death of Pope Shenouda. [Rajab Ramadān and Nāsir al-Sharqāwī, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 19, p. 3] Read original text in Arabic