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Churches mourn the passing
of Pope Shenouda III


New York, March 18, 2012 -- Leaders of the National Council of Churches and its member communions expressed sadness today following the death March 17 of Pope Shenouda III, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church in Egypt since 1971.


"His Holiness Pope Shenouda was a tireless leader who steered his ancient church through difficult currents in a country where Christians are a minority," said National Council of Churches President Kathryn M. Lohre. "Under his leadership, the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church maintained a strong witness for Christ both in Egypt and around the world."


Clare J. Chapman, NCC Interim General Secretary, praised Shenouda's ecumenical spirit and openness to partnership and dialogue with other Christian groups.


"I always admired his wise comments and gentle spirit in his ecumenical engagements, including the World Council of Churches," Chapman said. "He and his flock were often beleaguered by right-wing factions of Egypt's Sunni majority, and he remained steadfast and courageous to the end."


Lohre and Chapman extended prayers and sympathies to Coptic Orthodox Christians around the world and in the United States. Bishop Sarapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles has represented his church at meetings of the National Council of Churches.


Bishop Serapion issued the following statement: "With hearts full of faith, trust, and hope, we bid farewell to our beloved father and faithful shepherd, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. We have full confidence that his pure soul is praying on our behalf before the throne of grace. Remembering his labor, shepherdhood, and fatherhood, we pray that God may repose his holy soul in the Paradise of Joy in the bosom of our holy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May he pray on our behalf and on behalf of his people whom he loved, served, and sacrificed all the days of his life.'


Pope Shenouda, 88, had been in declining health for several years.


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

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