Yesterday, we celebrated the anniversary of the departure of the Pope of the Arabs “Pope Shenouda III”, the 117th Patriarch on the See of St. Mark, in whose heart the home had dwelt since its first heartbeat till the last one.
In the previous article, we talked about Pope Kyrillos VI; his love, fatherhood and patriotic stances during a tough period of Egypt’s history, and today, we are to proceed towards a new icon of national love which has been rooted in Egypt’s heart, of which the “Coptic Orthodox Church” is an inseparable part.
It is the love that manifested and sparkled throughout the life of the Triple Beatified “Pope Shenouda III”.
Pope Shenouda III
Pope Shenouda III’s patriotism has been an example for Egyptians when he said: “Egypt is not a country we live in but a country that lives within us.” which has turned into a life beat in the hearts of her children; those who live on her lands and those who are found in any country in the world, they cherish their country in their hearts, working wholeheartedly for her good.
As Pope Shenouda’s love for Egypt was a chant kept up throughout his life journey, manifested in his poetry when he composed: “I placed you, O Egypt, within my soul, I am filled with deep passion for you, O Egypt”
And in his sayings; “We are Egyptians; each single blood drop in our bodies does believe in Egypt and Egyptian citizenship.”
He as well expressed his love saying: “Egypt is our country and our mother, whatever may befalls her would befall us.”
Throughout his life journey, his patriotic stances preceded his words; they were so obvious and prominent that he was called “The Patriotic Pope”.
In his departure anniversary, let me take you on a journey to pass through the prominent stations of his patriotic stances.
Early, before reaching 17, Pope Shenouda’s heart had been filled with love of Egypt and Egyptians, especially the labour, so he composed a national chant for labour in their day in 1940.
These intense feelings towards the country were deepened that he server Egypt as an infantry force reserve officer in 1947, he had frequently spoken about the values he cherished during that period like order, discipline, accuracy and rigidity, when asked in one of his visits to Syria in 2001; “we heard that your Holiness were a soldier one day” Smilingly, His Holiness replied; “I was a soldier, and I am still a soldier in the army of the nation and the big Arab World.”
During the period of Pope Kyrillos VI, a crisis had befallen Egypt, in which he played a great patriotic role, among the features of this period in Egypt’s history are the lectures and seminars given by the Church, as the lecture given by Bishop Shenouda, the Bishop of Education and Theological Seminary then, titled “Israel in the eyes of Christianity”, at the Syndicate of Journalists on 26/6/1996
Multitudes of people gathered to attend that lecture in the nearby syndicates and along the street of Abdel Khalek Tharwat, that they were reported to be around twelve thousand people!
The Journalists Syndicate Chief then Hafez Mahmoud commented on this lecture; “I have heard a lot about Israel, yet I have never heard like today!”
Pope Shenouda III pursued the national approach rooted in the Coptic Church, that the world saw him among Egypt’s children and army on the battlefront as he paid frequent visits there before October war, where he met leaders of the armed forces, officers and soldiers on the front lines, expressing the Egyptians’ appreciation and great support for them.
When the decisive moment came on the 6th of October 1973, the Coptic Church and His Holiness played a national role engraved in history, as providing moral and political support, to enhance the dear homeland and its brave army in the war of liberation; he formed an external media committee that plays a national role in strengthening the Egyptian battlefront before the world and supporting the war effort through raising donations for the injured and providing all kinds of support to the Egyptian army, securing medicines and humanitarian aid.
The Pope also visited many injured soldiers in hospitals on 22/10/1973 and visited the battlefront on 24/3/1974 after the end of the military operations.
His Holiness also participated in the historic meeting to honor the heroes of October War at the “House of Representatives” on 17/10/1973. Regarding his pen, it had never ceased to support the country during October war, enriching the memory of history with a bulk of national articles in support of the country and the armed forces, including: “We Defend our Lands”, “In Defense of the Truth” and
“Sinai is the Cemetery of Israelis” in which he said: “… Undoubtedly, all our hearts, thoughts and feelings are concentrated in the war that our country goes through in defense of our lands and in restoration of our stolen rights.
Perhaps the first thing we would say about war is that our country has been a lover for peace throughout its history, that it was merely compelled to go through wars; we have exerted our ultimate efforts to resolve our problem peacefully, we have tried patiently for more than six years to negotiate, discuss and offer solutions to no avail!
Therefore, our country was finally compelled to defend its right by force, to restore its territory and to preserve its dignity. The Bible says: “The king does not bear the sword in vain.” We are not fighting a war of aggression, nor do we attack anyone’s property.
But rather we are fighting within our lands in defense of it; therefore our country is fighting with a clear conscience and a pure heart, it has managed as well to gain the support of the unbiased justice loving world. Our soldiers are fighting in the battlefield, while God in heaven does see, hear, and work …”
Then his Holiness addressed Egypt: “Multiples of invaders have fought you, yet you have remained as you are, with your head raised! Their falsehood couldn’t overcome your truth! “We are optimistic, and thank God that distresses constantly increase our strength, make us more united, more firmly structured, and more determined and steadfast in fighting for the truth. These days, we see the church and the mosque together working for the sake of the redeemed country. Both the sheikh and the priest do work to raise awareness and urging people to be devoted to serving the country; war has made us all soldiers …”.
And thus, all the stances of His Holiness have been evidence on his love and patriotism, someone wrote: “The stance of the late Pope Shenouda III, the Pope of Alexandria, the Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark and the head of the oldest church in the Middle East, had indirectly made him one of the soldiers of the great battle. He did not keep silent, nor was he satisfied with praying during the war, but rather he shared as a fighting soldier through his pen, and visited the battlefields to support Egyptian soldiers.”
On the pages of history, recorded is the love of Pope Shenouda for Egypt and his national views throughout the journey of his life and his 40-year-service period, which have been reflected in a number of national and Arab issues as Jerusalem issue, that he became an actual Pope of the entire Arabs.
And …Stories of loving beautiful Egypt never ends…!
Head of Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center