Biographies His Holiness Pope Shenouda III

Image: Pope Shenouda III
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Photograph courtesy of Laurence Moftah.

One of the most important advocates of Moftah's project, and the person instrumental in the publication of The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy of St. Basil with Complete Musical Transcription (The American University in Cairo Press, 1998) was the Coptic Patriarch himself, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.

Born as Nazir Gayed on August 3, 1923, he was among the powerful laity who emerged from the Sunday School movement that invigorated the Coptic Church beginning in the early twentieth century. In an effort to counteract Protestant missionary activity in Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox community began their own Sunday school classes, youth meetings, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. As a graduate of the American school of Banha and the Secondary Iman Coptic School of Shubra, Gayed taught at the Sunday Schools of St. Anthony's church of Shubra, then later at St. Mary's Church of Mahmasha. In 1947, he graduated from the University of Cairo with a Bachelor of Arts in History. While teaching high school history and English, he completed his Bachelor of Theology from the Coptic Theological Seminary, and was appointed as a part-time lecturer of the Old and New Testament in 1949. By 1953, he accepted a full-time position as a lecturer at the Monastic College of Helwan. A prolific writer, he was known for his poetry, and his brief stint in journalism.

On July 18, 1954, Nazir Gayed entered the Monastery of the Syrians, otherwise known in Arabic as Deir Al-Surian, in the Wadi al-Natrun valley region of Egypt. According to Coptic tradition, he was renamed Abouna Antonious El-Sourani, or Father Anthony the Syrian,[1] and he spent six years as a hermit monk in a cave in the Egyptian desert, which he carved out himself between 1956 and 1962. In his final year of solitude, he was summoned by His Holiness Pope Cyril VI and, on September 30, 1962, he was consecrated as His Grace Bishop Shenouda, the Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. As Bishop, he was responsible for the Christian education of both laity and the Coptic clergy. Under his leadership of the Coptic Theological Seminary, student enrollment more than tripled, while women were admitted for the first time, first as students, and later as lecturers. In 1969, he was elected as the President of the Association of Middle East Theological Colleges.

Upon the death of His Holiness Pope Cyril VI on March 9, 1971, Bishop Shenouda was elected and consecrated as the 117th Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria on November 14, 1971. During his patriarchy, he continued the Coptic intellectual, educational, and spiritual renaissance that had been initiated earlier that century and extended his efforts to the growing diaspora outside of Egypt. At the beginning of his term, there were only four Coptic Churches in North America. Today, there are over two hundred burgeoning churches, a handful of monasteries, and two theological colleges. This does not include the churches that are now flourishing in Australia and New Zealand and the number of communities growing all over Europe. It is interesting to note that the field of Coptic studies, both in and outside Egypt, flourished during his reign, mirroring his continued interested in education. It was in this context that Ragheb Moftah undertook and published his studies on Coptic hymnology.

During the rising sectarian tensions between Coptic Christians and Muslims, His Holiness, the Pope, treads a very fine line as both a religious and political figure in Egypt. Balancing staunch patriotism with a need to speak out against the discrimination that Christians are presently experiencing in Egypt, he has always been an activist for Coptic civil rights while promoting Christian-Muslim unity. Yet, he has not been without challenges in this arena. During the presidency of Anwar Sadat (1970-1981), these tensions came to a head with the growth of Islamic fundamentalist groups in student universities. Pope Shenouda decried the repeated attacks against Christian homes, churches, and businesses by refusing to celebrate the Easter liturgy publicly and to welcome government delegates to the service as is customary every year. Accused of aggravating sectarian dissent, he was placed under house arrest in Anba Bishoy, or Saint Bishoy Monastery, in the western desert of Egypt, beginning September 5, 1981. After Muslim extremists assassinated President Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981, the next reigning president, Hosni Mubarak, finally released Pope Shenouda from his exile on January 6, 1985. This period was a time of spiritual retreat for the Pope and he managed to publish 16 books during these 4 years.

On the ecumenical front, Pope Shenouda III is renowned for his efforts toward Christian unity. He was the first Coptic Patriarch in over 1500 years to meet with the Roman Patriarch, Pope Paul VI, in 1973. During this significant meeting, they signed a decree working toward the reconciliation of both their churches, especially with regard to their dogmatic and historical differences. Since then, he has met frequently with representatives from other denominations, promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. Also, he has ensured that the Coptic Church becomes a member of the World Council of Churches, 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, as well as founding the North American Office for Ecumenical Affairs. In 2000, His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III, was honored with the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize, a prestigious award given only every two years which recognizes the efforts of those who promote tolerance and non-violence.

Note

  1. To represent their true death to the world and their transformed identity in Christ, monks take on new names on the day of their ordination. This is true for laity who become clergymen, women who become nuns, and monks who are elected as bishops. [back to biography]

References

Hasan, S.S. Christians versus Muslims in Modern Egypt: The Century-Long Struggle for Coptic Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Mikhail, Mikhail E. "His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III: Biography." Coptic Orthodox Church Network Web site. Jersey City: CopticChurch.net, 2005. http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/pope/#Biography External Link: ttp://www.copticchurch.net/topics/pope/#Biography (accessed 11 August 2008).

The Official Site of His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III. Cairo: Techno Mina Communications, 1998. http://www.copticpope.org/ External Link: http://www.copticpope.org/ (accessed 11 August 2008).

Ramzy, Carolyn. "Taratīl: Songs of Praise and the Musical Discourse of Nostalgia among Coptic Immigrants in Toronto, Canada." Master's thesis, Florida State University, 2007.

Watson, John. Among the Copts. Sussex, U.K: Sussex Academic Press, 2000.

Selected Works at the Library of Congress

About this Item

Title
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
Contributor Names
Ramzy, Carolyn M. (author)
Subject Headings
-  Shanudah III, Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, 1923-2012
-  Biographies
-  Songs and Music
Genre
biography
Online Format
online text
Description
Biography. Watson, John. Among the Copts. Sussex, U.K: Sussex Academic Press, 2000.
Additional Metadata Formats
METSXML Record

Rights & Access

Rights assessment is your responsibility.

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. There may be content that is protected as "works for hire" (copyright may be held by the party that commissioned the original work) and/or under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations.

Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permission ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the bibliographic information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding items and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

Thanks go to the following persons and organizations for granting permission for the use of items in the online presentation Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant and Hymnody.  Users may need to contact these rights owners for any re-use of materials:

Wassif Boutros-Ghali, President, Société d’Archéologie Copte, Cairo, for permission to reproduce articles on O.H.E. Burmester by Otto Meinardus, an atlas of Christian sites in Egypt by Meinardus, a photograph of O.H.E. Burmester, and a brochure on a map of Christian Egypt by Burmester, all published by the Société d’Archéologie Copte. 

Yasmine El Dorghamy, Turath, for permission to reproduce the article on Ragheb Moftah by Dr. Raymond Stock from Turath, August 2008.

Estate of John E. Gillespie, for permission to use two articles by John Gillespie and to reproduce the Gillespie correspondence in the American Folklife Center.

Chi Keat-Man, Syndication Account Manager, Telegraph Media Group Limited, London, for permission to reproduce three 1931 and 1932 articles on Newlandsmith from The Daily Telegraph

Claire Lamont, The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, for permission to reproduce Oriental Hymn Tunes by William Henry Temple, 1930.

Karen Lee of Cengage Learning, Belmont, California, for permission to use a selection of texts from The Coptic Encyclopedia.

Father Charles Libois, S.J., Collège de la Sainte-Famille, Cairo, and Lebanon, for photographs of Fathers Jules Blin and Louis Badet, as well as biographical sources on them.

Stephen McArthur of Multicultural Media, for permission to digitize four tracks from Echoes of the Nile: Aspects of Egyptian Music.

MVF - Michael Video, Heliopolis, for permission to reproduce film of Moftah’s funeral, 18 June 2001.

Simon O’Neill, Group Editor, The Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times, for permission to reproduce two articles on Newlandsmith’s lectures in England in  May 1931.

Alan Powell, The Star, Sheffield, for permission to reproduce an article on Newlandsmith in the Sheffield Mail, 1931.

Sinead Porter, NI Syndication, London, for permission to reproduce an article on Newlandsmith from The Daily Herald, 1931.

David Ramm, Editor-in-Chief, AMS Press, Brooklyn, New York, for permission to reproduce The Coptic Morning Service for the Lord’s Day by the Marquess of Bute.

Dr. Geoffrey Rutowski and Dr. Carl Zytowski, University of California, Santa Barbara, for permission to reproduce their memorial article on John Gillespie.

Father Thomas Sable, S.J., Director, Center for Eastern Christian Studies and Editor of Diakonia, The Theology Department, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania, for permission to reproduce Marian Robertson’s article on Newlandsmith’s transcriptions, and for giving us a copy of Diakonia.

His Grace, Bishop Serapion, Bishop of Los Angeles, and His Grace, Bishop Youssef, Bishop of Southern USA, for permission to reproduce The Divine Liturgies of Saints Basil, Gregory and Cyril, 2001.

Youssef Sidhom, Editor-in-Chief, Watani Newspaper, for permission to use the documentary film, Eminent Copts in Egyptian History: The Power of Coptic Music, Ragheb Moftah 1998, which includes an interview with Moftah by the late Egyptian musicologist, Dr. Adel Kamel.

Welcome Video Film, Cairo, for permission to reproduce film of Moftah’s 100th birthday, 21 December 1998.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact:  Performing Arts Reading Room.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Music Division.

More about Copyright and other Restrictions

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Ramzy, Carolyn M. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200155654/. (Accessed August 23, 2017.)

APA citation style:

Ramzy, C. M. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200155654/.

MLA citation style:

Ramzy, Carolyn M. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200155654/>.