Yesterday, at 5:15pm, the world lost a true leader and a true servant, Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
News websites and newspapers are full of news about his life, his achievements, his flaws, what people loved about him and what they didn’t, it’s as if I’m reading a history book!
No one talked about his fiery spirit, the spirit that gave glory to its maker; It’s He “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” (104:4)
Can you believe that an 88-year-old person who suffers from lung and liver diseases, and goes through kidney dialysis 2-3 times a week would give a 2 weekly talks, would meet up with people in need and personally give them money or whatever they need, would dedicate time to listen to people’s questions and reply to them, would write and publish books (over 100 books), would travel all over the world to check on his flock as a true shepherd would do, and would travel to a quiet monastery weekly to get his personal time with God, to recharge, to be able to give with no limits? I’m 26 and I can’t!
Last year he came to visit our church, later I knew from a friend that he went through minor surgery that same day! But the love in him for Jesus and for us, his children, was more than his love for himself and his care for his health. (The source of this story is that my friend -who I mentioned earlier-‘s mom was the anesthetist in that operation)
Aside from his unconditional love, and his fiery spirit in ministry, the wisdom and power that flowed from his words were enough to illustrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Everybody who heard him knew he was different; just like his Master, “they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22)
Pope in Arabic is translated to “Baba”, which other than its ecclesiastical usage, is actually the Arabic informal word for “father”, just like you would say “Dad”, instead of “Father”. Everybody who knew him, knows he was a true “baba”; he was both, the very formal charismatic leader who would meet with world leaders and renown figures, and the very humble simple dad who would sit with his children in very informal gatherings telling stories and jokes.
As Christians we don’t believe in death, we believe in the passing of the soul from this temporary earth to our permanent home in Heaven. And since we don’t believe in death, we believe that those who passed away and those who are on earth are one living family bind together. As I would ask a living friend to pray for me, I will ask the “living” Pope Shenouda to remember us in his prayers in front of God.
Update: I was told by Dawn that the news of his holiness’ passing away is not quite spread on the other side of the world. So I thought you may want to read the article on BBC or the entry about him in Wikipedia.