Friday Prayers for Egypt: Pope Shenouda and the Constitution

God,

Give comfort to the Copts in the loss of their pope. Pope Shenouda was a father figure and the only spiritual patriarch many Copts have ever known. May his death remind them that all die, but their confidence rests in the one of whom their faith claims resurrected the Messiah.

As they find this confidence, God, nurture it through provision of the next suitable pope. Many in the church are divided: Some desire another champion, others wish for a church of spiritual leadership leaving politics to the people. You know what is best, God. Provide the man who will strengthen the church and further your kingdom principles. May he have the Copts be a blessing to all, no matter the manner he interprets your will.

God, may the process of his selection be transparent. In the vagaries of post-revolutionary Egypt, help the church to honor its ancient traditions, while honoring also the public eye. In the end, may the choice be yours, but may the people find consensus with their leaders. Heal division, curb ambition. Preserve the unity of all.

Thank you, God, for the outpouring of condolence offered by Egypt. May it unite also Egypt’s Muslims and Christians, and give them common cause in rebuilding their nation.

Yet there is fear, and the coincidence of history is concerning. During the interim between Pope Kyrollos and Pope Shenouda the state placed Article Two into the Constitution. Young Pope Shenouda railed against it, for it established the principles of sharia law to be the basis of all legislation.

Old Pope Shenouda, however, relied on sharia law to secure what he believed to be Biblical interpretation in divorce and family matters. It is likely the new constitution will be formed in the interim between two popes. Meanwhile, as Egypt prepares, almost no Copts ask for the removal of Article Two.

Yet almost all Christians – and many Muslims – have at least slight concern Article Two will be amplified Islamically. According to the rules of the game as received so far, very little can be done to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis from crafting a fully Islamic constitution, if they so wish.

God, give wisdom to the Copts in these major issues. Should they labor and protest for a liberal constitution seemingly against the wishes of the majority? Should they embrace an Islamic vision and within it trust the protection offered? Or should they fully partner with Islamists to grant a religious charter that guarantees citizenship and full political and religious freedom?

The choice is no longer in the hands of Pope Shenouda, God. Raise up leaders who can guide the Copts in the way of wisdom.

Yet bless the process, God. May the constitution be a document to unite Egyptians, not divide them. May Copts share liberally in the process, while humbly recognizing their minority voice. May Muslims be generous and inclusive. May they hold to the truth nobly as their wisdom suggests. Honor all as they honor the other. May each hold the interests of Egypt above their own. From this, God, grant the interests of all.

Give Copts a good pope, God; give Egypt a good constitution.

Amen.

 

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