THAILAND: Rev Dr Henriette Hutabarat Lebang, General Secretary, Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), has expressed deep sorrow over the recent passing away of Pope Shenouda III, spiritual head of the Egyptian Coptic Church, on March 17, 2012.
In a condolence letter dated March 20, 2012 and addressed to the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Middle East Council of Churches, Dr Henriette Lebang, note that the beloved Patriarch served the Coptic Church for four decades with wisdom, courage and compassion.
“His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, brought to his office not only his erudition and intellect, but also the piety and serenity of monastic life and the years he spent in solitude as a hermit. We understand that he inspired the growth of the church both within and outside Egypt and courageously stood for the rights of the country’s Christian minority.
His vision and zeal for fellowship and unity of all Christians led him to visit Rome in 1973 and sign a Declaration of Common Faith with Pope Paul VI. Hailed as the first meeting between Alexandrine and Roman pontiffs since 451 AD, the event goes down in history as a journey of faith and love. He sought the friendship and co-operation of other Orthodox Churches in the Middle East and accompanied the Christians of the Middle East through many challenging and critical moments in the recent past.
She further notes the valuable lessons learnt from Pope Shenouda’s life spent in advocacy and dialogue for peace and reconciliation, especially to promote Christian–Muslim unity and Israeli–Palestinian peace, and bagging the Unesco’s Mandanjeet Singh prize for Tolerance in 2000. He inspired co-operation and accord among the people of Egypt regardless of the religion they profess saying “We Christians and Muslims are like organs in one body, which is Egypt.”
“We appreciate his strong convictions about the role of young people in the church and uphold his statement “A church without youth is a church without a future.” We hold in high esteem his regard for women and his faith in the gift of women’s ministries in the life of the Church that led to his bold decision to resume the ordination of deaconesses after an interval of several centuries and to encourage women to enter theological colleges and Communal councils.”
Paying glowing tributes, the message says the Church was overwhelmed at the loss of such an illustrious, wise and saintly leader, and offered its solidarity and prayers for peace and guidance, keeping in mind the difficult period the Christians and the people of Egypt were going through.
“Let us strive to live his legacy of a way of life that fearlessly reached out to build bridges of love as he believed that “Love generates love and separation generates separation,” the condolence adds.