March 17, 2012 | 6:51 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Christian Church, has died. He was 88.
For more than 40 years, Shenouda worked to keep the peace between Egypt’s Muslim and Christian communities—no small task. But he also opposed Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and was accused by Anwar Sadat of ratcheting up religions tensions.
Reuters reports on his life and death:
On most occasions, the Egyptian church under the leadership of Shenouda refrained from making any public criticism of the Egyptian authorities even when his its followers protested, complaining of discrimination and lax security around churches.
Shenouda and the Coptic church endorsed ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he ran for his fifth term in 2005, reflecting the views of many Copts, who saw Mubarak as a bulwark against Islamists such as the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
Shenouda’s detractors sometimes accused him of authoritarian tendencies. In the mid-1990s, he faced a backlash within his own church over allegations he was marginalizing or ex-communicating priests who did not agree with his policies.
His decision to reject Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and to speak out against a small Islamist insurgency in the 1970s that targeted some Christians temporarily saw him lose his freedom.
Read the rest here.
President Obama issued a statement. It’s after the jump:
Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III, a beloved leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians and an advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue. We stand alongside Coptic Christians and Egyptians as they honor his contributions in support of peace and cooperation.
We will remember Pope Shenouda III as a man of deep faith, a leader of a great faith, and an advocate for unity and reconciliation. His commitment to Egypt’s national unity is also a testament to what can be accomplished when people of all religions and creeds work together. On behalf of the American people, we extend our thoughts and prayers to Coptic Christians, Egyptians, and all those who mourn Pope Shenouda III today.
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