Egypt's Pope Shenouda III Dead at 88
Articles in Sunday School Magazine between 1956 and 1958 frequently argued against this decision.
Pope Kyrillos Era (1959-1971)
Pope Kyrillos was elected, and in 1962, he consecrated Father Antonios to Bishop Shenouda. Prior to 1962, Bishops were only responsible for their diocese, but with the consecration of Bishop Shenouda, "general bishops" were conceived for special tasks.
Bishop Shenouda became general bishop of education. Later, more consecrations to the function of general bishop followed, giving them the same vote in the Synod as diocesan bishops, gradually weakening the status of individual diocesan bishops.
Bishop Shenouda was suspended in 1966 by Pope Kyrillos for his "campaigns for change" that called for popular election of bishops and priests, a principle that Bishop Shenouda later applied when he became Pope. This conflict between Pope Kyrillos and Bishop Shenouda was later resolved.
Anwar al-Sadat Years (1971-1981)
When Pope Kyrillos passed away in 1971, Nazir Gayed was again one of the candidates for the papacy. The charismatic priest, Father Bishoi Kamel, then wrote a strongly worded pamphlet against the election of any bishop to the papacy, indicating resistance to changing the rules for who is eligible for election.
But Pope Shenouda was consecrated in 1971. He was not afraid to oppose government decisions that he believed restricted the freedom of Christians in Egypt. Only one year earlier Anwar al Sadat had become president of Egypt and decided to give more opportunities to Islamists in society. The policies of church and state clashed in particular over church building and Pope Shenouda's resistance against changing Article 2 of the constitution from the shar'iah as "a" source of legislation to the Shar'iah as "the" source of legislation.
Clashes resulted in tensions between church and state and in violence and death in the streets of Egypt among Muslims and Christians. The famed British historian P.J. Vatikiotis called Pope Shenouda of these days "a firebrand."
But Pope Shenouda was certainly not the only "firebrand." Many Muslim preachers qualified for the same description. Tensions in society worsened and Sadat decided to arrest 1,536 people, among them 120 Copts, including 8 bishops and 24 priests.
Sadat banished Pope Shenouda to the monastery of Anba Bishoi, having him (de facto) replaced by a committee of five bishops.
Just days before Sadat was assassinated during a military parade on October 6, 1981, Father Matta al-Meskeen, a major reformer, told Time magazine, "Shenouda's appointment was the beginning of the trouble. The mind replaced inspiration, and planning replaced prayer. For the first years I prayed for him, but I see the church is going from bad to worse because of his behavior ... I can't say I'm happy, but I am at peace now. Every morning I was expecting news of more bloody collisions. Sadat's actions protect the church and the Copts. They are from God."
This statement contributed to a lasting schism between these two major reformers in the church.