Guest / Limited Access /

Pope Shenouda, the controversial yet beloved head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, died Saturday after 40 years of leading and reforming the ancient Christian communion. His death complicates the uncertain position of Orthodox believers—who represent 90 percent of Egyptian Christians—now that Islamists have surged to leadership following Egypt's revolution last January.

Coptic Protestants respected and appreciated the pope.

"Shenouda was a pope of the Bible," said Ramez Atallah, head of the Bible Society of Egypt. "We are the fifth-largest Bible society in the world because [he] created a hunger for the Scriptures among Copts."

Safwat el-Baiady, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, described Shenouda's commitment to interdenominational understanding. "I have known him since before he was pope, and we served together on the Middle East Council of Churches. He would meet with us for hours and listen to our views."

Mina al-Badry, a young Protestant pastor in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya, admits tensions with the Orthodox Church but echoed praises of Shenouda. "He was a wise man who cared for the whole Egyptian church [including Protestants and Catholics]," said al-Badry. "Yes, there were times of denominational fanaticism on both sides, but he was the celebrated picture of all of Egypt's Christians."

Shenouda was particularly appreciated for his handling of sectarian tensions, according to Ashraf Atta, a Pentecostal pastor and teacher of theology. "[He] had the wisdom to resolve conflict during times of persecution," said Atta. "He was always willing to forgive and walk the second mile."

Yet the biggest challenge facing the church today is in the realm of politics. Shenouda provided leadership for ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current Issue5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Subscriber Access Only 5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Considering a break from the web? Let Esther Emery pick the right readings to keep you company.
RecommendedRussia's Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church
Russia's Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church
(UPDATE) Putin signs new restrictions that limit where and how Christians share the gospel.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickA Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
A Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
What’s behind our timeless fascination with religious pilgrimage?
Christianity Today
Why Pope Shenouda's Death Matters to Egyptian Protestants
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.