His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of Alexandria, was born on August 3, 1923 in the city of Sohag in Upper Egypt; he was given the name of Nazir Gayed Raphael. His mother died immediately after his birth and was taken care of by his father and his older brother, “Raphael”.
He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Pharaonic and Islamic History in 1947 from Fouad I University (Cair University currently) (excellent grade).
In his final year at the Faculty of Arts, he joined the Seminary and obtained the bachelor’s degree in three years, and worked an Arabic and English teacher.
He attended evening classes at the Coptic Theological Seminary and was a student and a professor at the same college at the same time.
His Holiness enjoyed writing very much, especially poems; and was an editor then editor-in-chief of the Sunday Schools magazine and at the same time he was pursuing higher degree in ancient archeology.
Mr. Gayed was very active in his church and served as a Sunday School teacher, first at Saint Anthony’s Church in Shobra and then at Saint Mary’s Church in Mahmasha.
In the days of Pope Shenouda III, University students were exempt from joining the Army. And It was also possible to pay an amount of money in order to be exempt. But he volunteered while he was still a student at the university. 3 years in the army ongoing daily military training in Sidi Bishr first military and then in Mandara, Alexandria. He was top of his batch at the Infantry School.
On July 18, 1954, Mr. Gayed was led to the monastic life at “El-Suryan” Monastery in the western desert of Egypt; he was given the name of Father Antonyos El-Suryaani. For six years, from 1956 to 1962, he lived a life of solitude in a cave about seven miles away from the monastery, dedicating all his time to meditation, prayer, and asceticism. Pope Shenouda once said, “I found in monasticism, a life of complete freedom and clarification.”
HG Bishop Theophilus, entrusted the library of manuscripts and manuscripts in “El-Suryan” Monastery to Pope Shenouda when he was a monk, after Fr. Makari ElSuryani left it (Bishop Samuel of Public Services).
In 1959, His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI appointed Fr. Antonyos as his personal secretary.
In 1962, he was ordained by the late Pope Cyril VI as Bishop of Ecclesiastical (Religious) Education and was named President of the Coptic Theological Seminary; he was given the name of Bishop Shenouda on September 30, 1962.
After the departure of Pope Kyrillos IV The Divine Providence chose (Anba Antonius) by altar ballot on 31 October 1971 to be the Pope Shenouda III and On November 14, 1971, His Holiness was enthroned as Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria, and successor of the see of St. Mark.
His Holiness ordained more than seventy bishops, established general bishoprics, including the first Bishopric of Youth, more than four hundred priests, and countless deacons for Cairo, Alexandra and the Churches abroad. This extended the pastoral care to every city, village and family all over the See of St. Mark. His Holiness continually holds meetings and seminars with the clergy to discuss any pastoral problems or needs.
During the early years of his enthronement, His Holiness Pope Shenouda had an amicable relationship with the late Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat. However, during his presidency, violent Islamic fundamentalist groups increased all over Egypt, especially in the Universities. They started to attack the Copts, vandalize their businesses, and burn their churches, which led Pope Shenouda to protest to the government against this repeated violence. Sadat reacted by issuing a presidential decree to exile His Holiness to the Monastery of St. Bishoy, imprison eight bishops, twenty-four priest, leading Coptic lay figures, and ban “El-Keraza” magazine and “Watany” newspaper.
A month after his decree, Sadat was assassinated by the same fundamentalist groups. After much effort from His Holiness’ children inside and outside the Coptic Orthodox Church, and after three and a half years, the succeeding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, released Pope Shenouda from exile. Accompanied by many bishops, His Holiness returned to St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, where more than ten thousand people filled the Cathedral to receive the Pope.
In spite of the many responsibilities of his Holiness, he always tries to spend three days a week at the monastery, and his love for monastic life led to its revival in the Coptic Church, where hundreds of monks and nuns were ordained.
He was the first patriarch to establish several Coptic monasteries outside the Arab Republic of Egypt and restored many of the monasteries that was destroyed.
In his reign, the dioceses increased and a large number of churches were established both inside and outside Egypt. The Coptic Church moved from local to global.
The holy Myron and the Galalons were sanctified seven times in his reign: 1981 – 1987 – 1993 – 1995 – 2004 – 2005 – 2008.
His Holiness suffered from several diseases throughout his life, cartilage pains in the back (spine), cancer in the lungs (the disease did not spread in other parts as doctors expected), he also had some health problems in Kidney, He underwent kidney dialysis for years and sometimes more than once a week. He also suffered from heart problems, diabetes and High blood pressure. In 2006 He suffered from broken bones and underwent an operation.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III departed on Saturday 17 March 2012 at 5:15 pm at the age of 89. The funeral prayer was held on his immaculate body on Tuesday 20 March 2012, amid the attendance of many representatives of the world’s churches, politicians and hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims.