- Middle East/North Africa
Egypt’s ruling military council, presidential candidates, religious figures, and the US president expressed sorrow and offered their respects to Pope Shenouda III, who passed away at the age of 89 on Saturday.
The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), in a message on its Facebook page, said that it hopes that the Pope’s wishes of “preserving the unity of Egypt and the unity of its social fabric” will be achieved.
SCAF said that they call on the Egyptian people in such great loss to “consolidate with each other in order to pass with Egypt towards security and stability.”
Egypt’s Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb in a lengthy statement expressed his sympathy with the Christian community over the death of Pope Shenouda, saying that he was a respected national figure. Al-Tayeb said that Al-Azhar “greatly remembers his vision towards Jerusalem and its history.”
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party also issued a statement signed by Mohamed Morsi, the chairman of the party, in which the party commemorated Pope Shenouda, whose life, the statement said, was “a long journey of big contribution in various fields domestically and abroad.”
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also offered their respects.
"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.”
Obama added that Shenouda’s “commitment to Egypt’s national unity is also a testament to what can be accomplished when people of all religions and creeds work together.”
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri said in a statement “I give my sincere condolences to the Coptic brothers home and abroad.” He said that Pope Shenouda was a “national character and a symbol for patriotism and he gained wide respect and appreciation from the Egyptian people.”
Former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf remembered Shenouda as a “devout clergyman, a good citizen and a valuable leader."
"His memory will remain in our hearts. His vision was always that Egypt is not the country that we live in; but the country that lives in us,” Sharaf said.
Presidential Hopeful Ahmed Shafiq also issued a statement, saying that Egypt has lost a “unique religious leader and a distinguished character in the national history.” He added that he trusts that the “Coptic church will pass this hard moment because of the great legacy of Pope Shenouda.”
Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa called Pope Shenouda “a great man who was working for the interests of the country. He was working for Egypt to stand as a unified front against the challenges facing the nation.”
As for Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, presidential candidate, his campaign said that Fotouh had spoken with Bishop Moussa, the Orthodox Church's bishop of the youth. In his call, his campagin said, he expressed his sincere condolences to the Coptic Church and Copts in Egypt and abroad.
As of late Saturday, no statement had been issued from any figures belonging to the hardline Islamist Salafi movement or from the Salafi Nour Party.