Bishop Ermia tells the secrets of the last hours in the life of Pope Shenouda III

Bishop Ermia tells the secrets of the last hours in the life of Pope Shenouda III

- Sadat saved the Pope from being killed beside him on the podium by banishing him
- Pope did not err in preventing divorce and we are all in the service of “St. Mark chair”
For the first time since Pope Shenouda has passed away, at his departure fourth anniversary, Bishop Ermia opens his heart and tells the memories of the last days in the life of the great Pope.
His eyes floods with tears while he remembers the moment he passed away, which was only witnessed by Bishop Ermia as he called out, “O our master don’t leave us.” Bishop Ermia secretary of the late patriarch reveals for the first time the details of disagreements between the Pope and Matta ElMaskin and last hours phone calls between the Pope and President Mubarak at the January 25 revolution days. And to the text of the interview.
• You have good relationship with officials Do you love to be described the in power bishop?
For no power but for God, and existing relationships, are great balance formed by time and it cannot be lost it works for the common good and for the good, it is better that it develop and grow, and who cut his ties becomes a limited person, he cannot communicate with others and joy together, and relations is what creates human communication so it is not a source of strength, The strong is who tolerate others according to my own definition.
• Did you formed relationships with authorities in the period of your job as secretary of Pope Shenouda III or is it a special talent you have?
For sure I learned from Pope Shenouda, but personal talents are acquired over time, there are people who develop their talent and benefit from it and reach out to the top, and some of them cannot use his talents, there are those who exploit opportunities and there is who always waste it.
• What you’ve learned from Pope Shenouda in the 17 years you have worked next to him?
I worked with Pope Shenouda from 1995 to 2012 and exactly for 17 years minus 2 days, and I thank God because I saw in his actions great wisdom and unusual love for Egypt, he holds Egypt in his heart wherever he go, he put it over his head and offer it to all people, saves its name and do not speak about its imperfection, he has countless friends Muslims before Christians, and has an extraordinary ability of human communication, problem solving.

• Expose us the hidden aspects of Pope Shenouda personality?
The hidden side in Pope Shenouda personality is the real monk personality, In front of people he show the image of the powerful Patriarch as in his cell he was isolated and live a life of monasticism and optional poverty he was simple and few eating, he lived a quiet life and cared about reading, lectures and prepare himself and study before meeting anyone, He considered his articles a kind of humanitarian communication between him and humans and he intended that his articles address Christian and Muslim and old and young people, do not deliberately address it to a specific group of people, He wrote many articles in all the newspapers, And he conducted interviews for many newspapers and magazines and was able to communicate with all, What actually helped me to write my articles when he started in the dialysis stage, and he was no longer able to write and he began to dictate me, he actually began to dedicate me his articles since 1998 when he suffered from herpes so I wrote after him, and it was the first he dictated me, the second time was when he suffered from kidney disease, and I started to learn from him how to choose the articles, and what type of articles people benefit from ?,and when to write about various events?, The Pope was not working with action and reaction system but was working with Cultural and social building system, I learned what I can write and be beneficial and what I can write and be harmful?, sometimes he commented when he was dictating me and all this teachings cemented in my memory.
• You lived with Pope Shenouda in all stages of his disputes, how the pope runs his disputes with his opponents like Matta ElMaskin?
The word dispute is an inaccurate expression, and what I can say is that Pope Shenouda respected Father Matta ElMaskin a lot, and when Father Matta ElMaskin came to hand over the farm to the Pope, they sat equally on the same couch, he didn’t let him feel that he is his Patriarch, but he appreciated that Father Matta ElMaskin preceded him in monasticism and treated him very well, and He discussed with him quietly and when Pope Shenouda spoke about the difference between him and Father Matta ElMaskin in education, he always emphasized that the difference in thought and teachings must be faced only with thought he hasn’t forbidden someone saw. If you are claiming that your teachings are like that I am telling you that the right teaching is this.
• It is said that the dispute between the Pope and Matta ElMeskin was because of their vision in monasticism the Pope believes that Monasticism is for service and the other raise the slogan of Monasticism for Monasticism What do you think?
No, the concept of monasticism didn’t differ between the two of them monasticism has its vows that every church implement, and it is optional poverty life and death from the world, and we can’t change that, and Pope Cyril VI was a hermit monk and when he was called for service in the church he responded, Pope Shenouda was a recluse in his cave in Syrian monastery and he answered the call of service, when you ask the monk for obedience he must obey, Me also I was confined in my cell and when the pope invited me to the service went immediately, because god is the one who change our paths, and Father Matta ElMaskin was the undersecretary of the Patriarchate in Alexandria We cannot consider their dispute was because of their vision in monasticism.
• Was it a political dispute or has deep roots in teaching and doctrinal differences?
History alone will tell the truth of those differences, but the differences were not all doctrinal, with the existence of differences over interpretations of the Bible verses and Pope Shenouda published replies to this interpretations and he called it the modern heresies and whatever the outcome this science exist and respond to it exists.
• But Father Matta ElMeskin writings were blocked and banned from churches, in Pope Shenouda days?
Pope Shenouda did not prevent anyone and as a proof Father Matta ElMeskin printed and published his books, It wasn’t prevented from churches libraries and exist till today until people see clearly the right and the wrong, we cannot stop the thought, but we face the teachings with teachings, and writing with writing.
• Have Pope Shenouda reconciled with Father Matta ElMaskin before he died?
Already encounters occurred between them, I have already attended farm transmitting to Pope Shenouda III meeting, a meeting attended by Bishop Sarabamoun abbot of St. Bishoy monastery in Wady Natrun, me and Father Istephanos Anba Bishay and Father Bishoy Anba Bishoy. Father Matta ElMaskin left the monastery with his monks and we took the farm key from him, Pope Shenouda advised me before traveling to the United States, and said to me “do not let anyone enter this farm, no visitors or anyone else you only pray in it with the monks because I know that Father Matta will return and ask for it, and listen what I am saying to you I know his habit” and, indeed, before two-month pass Father Matta ElMaskin called me and asked for the farm key, I called Pope Shenouda In The US to inform him, and he ordered me to give it to them, and I took the monks with me and left, Pope Shenouda didnt capture anything, but he ran things with Smoothness and wisdom.
• What are the commandments, which the Pope stressed on in his last year?
Pope Shenouda was careful on the people, and his faithful on the people was very clear, so that he had insisted on delivering his sermon at the weekly meeting to meet with the people, and his main goal was to preserve the poor and their needs and desires, He founded “Do you love me ‘Association, which I supervise and it bestowed on the poor aid in-kind and material aid monthly. The Pope draw us this line and we walked on it, and he left to Bishop Youannis the services Episcopal and ordered him to take care of the brothers of the Lord, people had all his main concern because God Entrusted him on them, and the Pope hated to fall short in serving one of the people, money for him didn’t worth anything it was the souls that are the most important, He bestowed out of his pocket each week and distributed to the poor with his hands, and he commands us to give the poor without scrutiny, and he cared a lot in writing and addressing people and in the last article in his life he wanted to write it by himself after he dictated me a page from it, he wrote the second page and it was entitled ” Do not be afraid” it was published in Al-Ahram newspaper in his handwriting.

• You lived with the Pope at the beginning of Mubarak era after falling out with Sadat, how you read the scene?
Falling out with Sadat days I served here in the Cathedral Church of Saint-Reweiss, and then I finished my university studies and became a Monk and we heard in our monasteries about everything that was going between the pope and the president, and then returned to the cathedral at the beginning of Mubarak era, and the Pope dictated us by himself what happened in that period which is published in the book “thus he lived and thus he spoke” He dedicated to me by himself and it felt it is a lot on myself to write my name on a book containing the Pope notes.
• Describe to us the feelings of Pope Shenouda in his custody in the monastery and how he was telling you about it?
For the fact that President Sadat God rest his soul put the Pope in custody the Pope Shenouda would have died in the podium accident instead of Bishop Samuel, God used Sadat in order to preserve the pope and put him in the monastery, everything happening in the world but, of God willing, God looks for us and see the past, present and future, all these times for God is one, he knows with his abilities everything and wanted to preserve the pope for some reason, He pushed Sadat to make the decision and send him to the monastery to protect him from death.
• What happened after the pope returned to the Cathedral at the beginning of the Mubarak era?
In 1985 people carried the pope on their necks when he returned to the Cathedral, of course Copts loves their father patriarch, then he came to work and communicate with the presidential and state institutions, and the clashes which took place in the whole Mubarak period are known and We were able to contain it with the love of God, such as Kosheh 1, Kosheh 2, Nag Hammadi, Abbo Korkas, Wafaa Constantine problem and Fayoum girl problem.
• How was the pope running sectarian strife files?
He did not call it sectarian strife, but how we contain this matters and create communication between the two parties because if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand as the Bible says, we are all one family and unity of purpose and determination binds us, crises always required wisdom to solve it, and at the same time the Pope didn’t remiss his “Dependents “rights he was always saying I am entrusted on the people and will not waste on the right of one of them.
• Why the Pope decides to solitude in the monastery after sectarian incidents?
The Pope resort for solitude while things up to ” Dam Lane ” which is what happened at Wafaa Constantine crisis and the crisis were not in Wafaa herself but in the arrest of young protesters, the pope was solving the problem of Wafaa while authorities surprised him by arresting young people he told us how I will celebrate festive while the boys are in prison? He decided to go to the monastery.
•Kdesein “Saints” Church events was the last incident Pope Shenouda lived how he dealt with it?
Pope did not solitude in the monastery at this time, because every position is measured according to its circumstances, details and causes, there is a difference in dealing with a crisis caused by the officials, and the crisis in which the doer is anonymous as in Kdesein “Saints” calamity, but there was an escalation in the country led to the revolution in the end, and the perpetrator is still unknown in Kdesein “Saints” calamity till now.
• How Pope Shenouda received the shock of ElKedisin “Saints” bombings?
We were in the Papal in St. Bishoy monastery and the pope entered his cell to rest and what happened has happened, I called Metropolitan Bachomios in Damanhour and Bishop Kyrollos in MarMina monastery and they were The nearest two bishops in terms of geography and I asked them to go to Alexandria, we spoke with Omar Soliman and he acted manly he regulated the performance and controlled evrything, and it was possible that calamity escalate but he contained it. A multiplier reaction happened from Christians and General Omar Soliman contained it, and had a good attitude and I used to really give each one his due, we agreed then to pray in MarMina Monastery, and we asked to secure the road to the monastery so hassle does not occur, we agreed to bury them in MarMina Monastery so that people do not pass with the bodies and sectarian bickering happen, I informed the pope this day at half past four in the morning before he call President Mubarak, which what actually happened, and informed him of the steps I took before he wakes up and he trusted us because we know the general line and how to act the Pope didn’t “pin us back”, At the time, Bishop Youannis went from Cairo to Alexandria, he left us to act freely based on mutual confidence between us, and then we went down from the monastery to the Papal, The Grand Imam came with a delegation of sheikhs to comfort us and on the same day the Grand Imam presented to Pope Shenouda the idea of founding the Egyptian family house to contain the problems between Muslims and Copts.

• Mention of the Egyptian family house .. Do you see that it is a protocol or has a real role on the ground?

Pope Shenouda succeeded with Sheikh Al-Azhar to establish of this body, and we have made a very big effort in founding it at the time of the revolution and in other conditions, and are currently working on the establishment of branches, and has an active and real role, In the religion committee discourse we taught Sheikhs and pastors how to deal together, I deal with Sheikhs because I am a bishop but I remember the first meeting between the two sides have been here in the Coptic cultural Center and when we put the food in front of them priests sat in one hand and Sheikhs on the other hand, we asked them to merge and a few days later, a deep friendships aroused between them which contributed in solving problems in villages and rural areas.
• How you received the first phone call in the papal telling the outbreak of a revolution?
Events indicated that, but things were not clear on Tuesday, January 25 it was just protests and the the pope feared on the fate of the country, the fear of the future crossed his face, and he prayed for the future of Egypt.
• Did the Pope call President Mubarak during the revolution?
After three days of the protests, Pope Shenouda advised President Mubarak to dismiss of Habib al-Adli as well as three other tips but the president throw in the sea and did not respond to it
• When Pope Shenouda decided to issue a statement blessing the January revolution, which was issued from the cathedral?
After the picture became clear in front of us and we saw the Egyptian youth revolution, the pope decided to bless that protests and issued a statement in his own handwriting, he dictated to me and we still keep it until today in the Coptic Cultural Center Museum, but in the beginning we did not know where the events are turning, the Pope is following everything in front of the TV and was very worried of the future of the country.
• Did President Mubarak ask for the support of Pope Shenouda and Copts during the revolution?
No he didn’t ask because the system was in the last stages of disintegration and collapse, and the pope was confident in God that he will save Egypt, which protected the Christ and the first altar was build in it and god blessed it.
• How do you see the Coptic young people who participated in the revolution?
It’s not wrong, because it reflects their situation, needs and views as an free Egyptian citizens, but after two revolutions everyone has to work hard because we “After that will not have a country and we have to rise our country and to keep it.

• How was Pope Shenouda relationship with the military council and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Field Marshal Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Annan and Murad Muwafi were keen to meet with Pope Shenouda and they held two meetings as for The Brotherhood mentor he was the last one to visit Pope Shenouda at the Papal on March 7, 2012 and they had a friendly talk but “God who is the one who knows what in the souls and what in the heart is in the heart”, he is the one who demanded to meet the Pope in order to Check on his health after the mentor called me and asked that, the Pope said to the mentor “Good luck for everyone” and his meeting with the mentor is normal thing that reflects the love of Christian teachings.
• Do Pope Shenouda erred, when he put “no divorce except for the reason of unchastity “rule?
Unerring who apply the commandment of the Bible, and the Bible does not change and valid for education yesterday, today and tomorrow
• How did you receive the news of the death of Pope Shenouda III?
It was a bizarre day and he was very ill and the pain was excessive, it was supposed that we go to the doctor, and Bishop Youannas went to pray, Father Boulos slept, I couldn’t go to pray and leave him and I sat until half past eight and I asked his permission to pray and come back, he said ask God to rest me I didn’t respond, he said “Do you like the pain I am feeling” I didn’t respond. I went to pray and returned so he asked me “did you say to our Lord, what I requested from you? I put my face in the ground He asked “Do you like the pain I am feeling” I said I will bring you the medicine he responded: Do you think it will work, and refused to see the doctor at that day, this time was not like every time, doctor Maher Asaad came and it was 5 pm, and Bishop Apollo of Sinai wanted to salute the pope before traveling, I prevented him because of the Pope illness and I entered to tell the Pope that the doctor arrived, but I was surprised that his spirit raised and I called him, “Our Master” so he don’t to leave us and when Dr. Maher heard me he told me “What” I told “Our Master ” is relieved from pain and we will continue the strove.