Good-bye great theologian, defender of faith

05-10-2018 10:15 AM

The Coptic Orthodox Church has lost a great pastor, scholar and theologian: Anba Bishoy, also written Bishoi, Metropolitan of Dumyat (Damietta) and Kafr al-Sheikh. Anba Bishoy passed away on the evening of Tuesday 2 October 2018 of cardiac arrest. He was 76.

Pope Tawadros II, who is on a pastoral visit to the US and Canada, mourned Anba Bishoy, personally and on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, the Coptic Religious Endowments Authority, and all Church organisations. He said: “It is with deep sorrow that we bid farewell to Anba Bishoy, Metropolitan of Dumyat and Kafr al-Sheikh, Head of St Dimiana Convent in al-Barari (the Prairies), Head of the Theology Department at the Coptic Studies Institute, and representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church in international, regional, and local Church councils, also in theological dialogue with various Churches.

“We mourn the sudden departure of Anba Bishoy who faithfully served the Church for some 45 years … He was a scrupulous theological scholar who, through his extensive knowledge, took part in drafting Church documents and statements on theological matters. He taught Theology in seminaries in Egypt and throughout the world.”

Last hours

A few days before his passing away, Anba Bishoy had been on a trip to Armenia where, at the Holy Etchmiadzin, he signed on behalf of the Family of Oriental Orthodox Churches a historic Memorandum of Understanding between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches and the United Bible Societies.

According to Father Rweis al-Orushalemi who was with Anba Bishoy as he headed to Cairo from Armenia, the Metropolitan had appeared especially happy and genial. “He had always been in good health, and never complained of any ailment; news of his passing away was such a shock,” Fr Rweiss said.

Anba Bishoy’s chauffeur, however, says that as he drove him from the airport, the Metropolitan complained of pain in his chest. The pain increased and, before they reached a hospital, Anba Bishoy breathed his last.

Go in peace

The funeral service for Anba Bishoy was held Thursday 4 October at the convent church of St Dimiana’s. Pope Tawadros delegated Anba Pachomius, Metropolitan of Beheira; Anba Benjamin, Metropolitan of Menoufiya; Anba Moussa, Bishop of Youth; and Anba Danial, Bishop of Maadi and Secretary-General of the Holy Synod; to conduct the funeral service.

Donned in his metropolitan garb, Anba Bishoy’s body was placed in an uncovered coffin for friends to cast a last farewell look at him. The coffin was placed in church on Wednesday 3 October. Among those who approached to bid him good-bye was his lifelong friend Anba Moussa, Bishop of Youth. Visibly moved, Anba Moussa was silent for a few moments, then whispered: “Oh my friend! I shall miss you. Go in peace, Your Eminence!”

In the early hours of Thursday 4 October, Midnight Praise began at St Dimiana’s concluding with Holy Mass, as Anba Bishoy’s body lay in front of the sanctuary.

The funeral service began at midday. A delegation from the Ethiopian Church had flown to Egypt to participate in the funeral service. A large number of clergy including 45 bishops, and a huge congregation attended, many among whom had come to church the evening before, spending the night with their beloved pastor. The congregation included many from the church of St Sidhom Bishay in Dumyat, who had come expressly for the funeral. Sidhom Bishay is a 19th-century Copt from Dumyat who had endured atrocious torture at the hands of local Muslims in order that he should deny his faith, but he never did. His body is intact, albeit bearing all the signs of torture, and is kept in a glass coffin at the church consecrated in his name in Dumyat. Anba Bishoy is descendent from the St Sidhom Bishay family.

Man of peace

During the funeral, Pope Tawadros sent a videoconference message mourning Anba Bishoy, praying for his soul to rest in peace and for divine comfort for the Church and congregation.

Kamal Sharombim, Governor of Daqahliya the northeast Nile Delta region in which Dumyat is situated, attended the funeral, as did senior administrative and security officials in the governorate, and leaders of the Muslim community. Sheikh Taha Ziyada, Daqahliya Deputy to the Minister of Religious Endowments, gave a word of condolence, in which he described Anba Bishoy as a man of peace.

Kafr al-Sheikh Governor Ismail Taha extended his deep condolences to the Coptic Orthodox Church and Pope Tawadros on behalf of Kafr al-Sheikh people for the loss of a “great religious and patriotic figure”. Anba Bishoy, Governor Taha said, was wise and quiet, and his life was one of service to the Church and community.

Untiring advocate of unity

Condolences flowed in from all over the world.

The World Council of Churches posted on its website a moving picture of Anba Bishoy before an Orthodox icon. Secretary-General of the Council, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit described Anba Bishoy as “one who made extensive contributions in the area of Pan-Orthodox unity, dialogue and ecumenism”. Dr Susan Durber, moderator of the WCC Commission of Faith and Order on which Anba Bishoy had served since 1991 till his death, said that he “brought to our work a steadfast commitment to ecumenism and the determination that does not give up on the task of calling one another to unity.”

The Middle East Council of Churches expressed deep sorrow at the loss of Anba Bishoy who was a member of the council. Souraya Bechealany, Secretary-General of the Council, called Pope Tawadros II to express her sympathy. She said Anba Bishoy was a world-class scholar in theology, and had an open ecumenical spirit.

In Egypt, the heads of the various Churches: Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, and Anglican, sent messages of condolence to Pope Tawadros and the Coptic Orthodox congregation. The metropolitans and bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church also mourned Anba Bishoy as a great pastor and theologian; Anba Martyrus, Bishop of The Churches East of the Railway described him as an incomparable theologian, the greatest in the Middle East.

Anba Bishoy was buried in the shrine of the bishops of Dumyat diocese.

Watani International

4 October 2018

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