A message from the President of SSJC-Western Region
(Light of the East Newsletter, 2012, Springi)
by Fr. George Morelli
It is not often that we are blessed to live in the same lifetime with one who is certainly saintly due to his ever-zealous witness to Christ during a time of unceasing and escalating attacks by Islamists, a time during which he provided loving Christ-like service to his people. Thus, it is with profound human sadness but great spiritual joy that we call to our hearts and minds His Holiness Thrice-Blessed Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church that traces back to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, who passed into Eternal Life in Our Lord on March17, 2012.
To “fall asleep in the Lord” in the hope of the Resurrection is a great grace, prayed for by all committed Christians. A witness to the Godly passing of His Holiness recounts that on his last day “ he could not sleep and was seeing holy visions of multitudes waiting for him (the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12: 1).”ii May God now seat him at the front of His banquet table in His Eternal Feast of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Ardent followers of Christ know the soul of His Holiness remains alive in the Eternal Mind of God. His spirit can also remain alive in us, who can emulate his desire for the unity of the Apostolic Churches. The unity of the Apostolic Churches is the primary hope, goal, prayer and service of us who are members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom; furthermore, we pray all Christians be devoted to this unity. Christ Himself prayed for the unity of us all when He cried out to His Heavenly Father: "Holy Father, keep in Thy name those whom Thou hast given Me, in order that they may be one, even as We." (Jn. 17:11)
The commitment of His Holiness of Thrice-Blessed Memory to this ecumenical effort is unquestionable. In 1973 he went to Rome and signed a declaration of common faith with His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Various news sources noted this was the first meeting of the Pontiffs since the year 451 AD. In later years, His Holiness Pope Shenouda worked toward similar understanding between the Coptic Church and other Orthodox Churches to overcome obstacles to full unity. An outstanding example was that in June 1989 His Holiness opened the International Commission for Inter-Orthodox Theological Dialogue Conference, which published the first “Agreed Statement” between these Churches.
Prayer, understanding and fellowship with one another are the very least we can do in the spirit and memory of this Godly Pope. May we be enlivened by one of his last words: "I pray for you my beloved children; preserve your tongues from causing any division!"iii
May his memory be eternal!
ii Personal communication with Fr. Kyrillos Ibrahim, 24 March 2012
iii Prayer Service, 2012 03 23, St. Mark's Coptic Church of Chicago