Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Cairo (Kareem Fahim) - A tearful crowd of thousands that included members of Egypt’s emerging political class attended a funeral service Tuesday for Pope Shenouda III, who spent four decades as the popular and charismatic leader of the country’s Coptic Orthodox Church. During a two-hour morning ceremony, with prayers read in Arabic and Coptic, the pope, dressed in an embroidered robe in a white, open coffin, was remembered as a “wise captain” who built bridges to Muslims and other Christian denominations as he spread the church’s influence around the world. The death Saturday of the only pope many Egyptian Copts had ever known underscored feelings of unease many Christians have about the tumult of Egypt’s political transition since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. By the early evening, there were scenes of pandemonium as thousands of people mobbed a van carrying Shenouda to his burial site, in a monastery in northern Egypt.

Red-faced military policemen wrestled mourners carrying the pope’s portraits as they strained for a last glimpse through the dark windows of the white van. The grief seemed only to compound the long-held complaints about discrimination which since Mr. Mubarak’s departure have been replaced by deeper fears that Islamist parties could further marginalize the minority Christian population if they try to fashion Egypt into a more observant Muslim state.  Sally Toma, a psychiatrist and leftist activist who is a Copt, said she hoped for a younger pope, and one more ready to embrace changes, including on the question of divorce, which the church prohibits. “Pope Shenouda was lovable and funny and witty and very educated. He was also an army man, a man of discipline. I guess it’s difficult to question discipline,” she said.

Pope Shenouda III, an giant figure for 40 years at the helm of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, died Saturday at age 88.  His body was laid to rest on Tuesday in a monastery after a moving funeral Mass at a Cairo cathedral attended by tens of thousands.  His death brought fears among Christians about the political rise of Islamists in this mainly Muslim and conservative Arab nation. Beyond the cultural differences, we are branches of the same spiritual tree which has God at its roots.

Even if Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., all keep their own ideology, legends, and traditions, we should realize that all of these legends and conceptions of God and forms of worship ultimately refer to the same Supreme God and lesser demigods, although they may be called by different names according to present day variations in region and culture. In other words, all these doctrines and faiths are simply outgrowths of the original religion and worship of the one Supreme Deity that spread throughout the world many thousands of years ago from the same basic source, and which is now expressed through the many various cultural differences in the world.  Therefore, no matter what religion we may consider ourselves, we are all a part of the same family.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“Death of the Aryan Invasion Theory”

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