His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, (August 3, 1923 – ), born Nazeer Gayed, is the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the Holy See of Saint Mark of the Coptic Orthodox Church. A graduate of Cairo University and the Coptic Orthodox Seminary, he became a monk under the name Fr. Antonious "the Syrian" after entering the Syrian Monastery of Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos where he was later elevated to the priesthood. The venerable saint, Pope Cyril VI summoned Fr. Antonious to the patriarchate where he ordained him Bishop of Christian Education and Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological University, whereupon he assumed the name His Grace Bishop Shenouda.
He has served as Pope of Alexandria since November 14, 1971, presiding over a worldwide expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church. During his papacy, Pope Shenouda III has appointed the first-ever Bishops to preside over North American dioceses that now contain over one hundred Churches, up from four in 1971, as well as the first Bishops in Australia and the first Coptic Churches in South America.
He is known for his commitment to Christian unity and has, since the 1970s, advocated inter-denominational Christian dialogue.
Born on August 3, 1923 in Asyut, Upper Egypt, he is the youngest of a family of eight children. By the age of 16, Shenouda was active in the Coptic Sunday School movement.
Mr. Gayed was very active in his church and served as a Sunday School teacher, first at Saint Anthony's Church in Shoubra and then at Saint Mary's Church in Mahmasha.
After graduating from Cairo University with a degree in history, he worked as a high school English and Social Studies teacher in Cairo by day, and attended classes at the Coptic Theological Seminary by night. Upon graduation from the seminary in 1949, he was chosen to teach New Testament Studies.
Elevation to Pope of Alexandria and Ethiopian Church Crisis
Pope Shenouda was consecrated as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark on November 14, 1971, nearly 9 months after the departure of Pope Kyrollos VI (See Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria).
H.H. Pope Shenouda III was consecrated as Pope of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark after a process in which he was selected by the Holy Spirit, and not by election (See Papal Election).
Following the arrest, imprisonment and subsequent execution of Abune Tewophilos, Patriarch of Ethiopia, by the Marxist Derg regime that had deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, Pope Shenouda III refused to recognize the cleric who was enstalled as the Ethiopian Patriarch's successor.
He argued that the removal of Patriarch Abune Tewophilos was illegal and un-canonical, and that in the eyes of the Church of Egypt and the Coptic Papacy, Abune Tewophilos remained legitimate Patriarch of Ethiopia. As the government of Ethiopia refused to aknowledge that the Patriarch had been executed, the Coptic Church refused to recognize any other Patriarch as long as Abune Tewophilos was not confirmed dead. Thus formal ties between the Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia were severed although they remain in full communion.
Period of Exile
On September 3, 1981, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat ordered Pope Shenouda into exile at the Monastery of St. Bishoi. In addition, eight bishops, twenty-four priests, and many other prominent Copts were placed under arrest. Sadat replaced the church hierarchy with a committee of five bishops and referred to Pope Shenouda as the "ex-pope." On January 2, 1985, more than three years after Sadat's 1981 assassination, President Hosni Mubarak released Pope Shenouda from exile. He returned to Cairo to celebrate the January 7th Christmas mass to a crowd of more than ten thousand.
Writings and lectures
His Holiness has been the editor-in-chief of El-Keraza Magazine, the official publication of the Coptic Orthodox Church, since 1962. He became the firstriarch of Alexandria since the fifth century to have been head of the Theological Seminary and continues to lecture at the Seminary branches in Cairo, Alexandria, and abroad, and at the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies. He also established other branches of the Seminary in Egypt as well as abroad. Shenouda is also the author of over 100 books.