Coptic Orthodox patriarch dead at 88
Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, who has led the Coptic Orthodox Church since 1971, died on March 17 at the age of 88.
The Coptic Orthodox Church, which ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, has an estimated 15 million members and is numbered among the Oriental Orthodox churches. Early in the reign of Shenouda III, the Coptic Church reached an agreement with the Holy See that largely (but not completely) resolved the doctrinal disagreements that had separated the two groups for centuries. Pope Shenouda and Pope Paul VI signed a joint statement affirming their "one faith in the One Triune God, the divinity of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God, the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance, who for us was incarnate, assuming for Himself a real body with a rational soul, and who shared with us our humanity but without sin."
“On learning of the sad departure to God, our common Father, of His Holiness Shenouda III, Patriarch of Alexandria on the See of Saint Mark the Evangelist, I wish to express to the members of the Holy Synod, to the priests and all the faithful of all the Patriarchate, my most sincere brotherly compassion,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a message of condolence.
“I recall with gratitude his commitment to Christian Unity, his memorable visit to my predecessor Pope Paul VI, and their signing of the Joint Declaration of Faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God together in Rome, on May 10, 1973, as well as his Cairo meeting with Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation, on February 24, 2000. I can say how the Catholic Church as a whole shares the grief that afflicts the Orthodox Copts, and how she stands in fervent prayer asking that He, who is who is the Resurrection and the Life, might welcome his faithful servant. May the God of all mercy receive Pope Shenouda in His joy, His peace and light.”