The passing of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, will be mourned by more than just those of his congregation. The outpouring of condolences, including from the UAE, showed a deeply felt respect for the patriarch's more than 40 years of service, and reflected an implicit recognition of the age-old importance of the Coptic community.
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood holds sway in Egypt's parliament and the country's new constitution is about to be written; more than ever, Copts need their voices to be heard. The loss of a respected and charismatic leader must not be allowed leave a vacuum in Copts' representation in Egypt. The rights of the Christian minority must not be overlooked in the political manoeuvres shaping Egypt's brave new world.
Pope Shenouda's role did involve controversy, particularly his support of the Mubarak regime. But since the uprising, he was a steady hand in uncertain times. After last year's violence between Copts and Muslims, the patriarch urged restraint on all sides.
In January, that approach was exemplified at church services also attended by leaders the of Muslim Brotherhood. Those services, Pope Shenouda said, showed that leaders were ready to work "with one hand for the sake of Egypt". In his absence, Copts and the country need a new leader who is also dedicated to one Egypt.