Nearly every Wednesday evening, Anba Shenouda III, the one-hundred-seventeenthpope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of Saint Mark of Egypt, the NearEast, and All Africa, conducts one of the Middle East's largest ChristianBible studies for about 5,000 Orthodox followers who crowd into Saint Mark's,the ornate Coptic cathedral near the center of Cairo.

During one session on a cool spring evening, Shenouda, whose 5 million CopticOrthodox believers make up the largest group of Christians in the MiddleEast, sat at a large table near the cathedral's altar and taught from Psalm119:11, "I have hidden your Word in my heart." He explained: "God loves thatwe store good things in our hearts. Store in your heart and mind and spiritwhat will be good for you. We forget our promises to God. Store them in yourheart. Write them down." Later, during a question-and-answer session, Shenoudadispensed fatherly advice, telling one wife-seeking young Egyptian, "Notevery girl you love you propose to."

After the two-hour session, the 74-year-old patriarch, who began his ministryin 1939 as a Sunday-school teacher, gathered his flowing black robes andprocessed out a side door with more than a dozen bishops in his wake. Thecrowd surged forward, expressing their deep affection for Shenouda by touchinganything he had touched and then kissing their own hands.

MONASTIC REVIVAL: Egypt's Copts, representing at best 8 to 10 percentof the country's 64.8 million people, are gaining a higher visibilityinternationally as an endangered religious group. But far less attentionhas been focused on the revival, renewal, and new growth under way not onlyin the Orthodox church, but also among Coptic Catholics and Coptic evangelicals.

Although Christians in the Middle ...

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

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

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.