The women were dressed in white. Contrary to the social tradition of wearing black to a funeral, most of the women attending the funeral service of Tassoni Angele were clad in white. ‘Tassoni”’is literal for ‘Sister’ in Coptic, a title that denotes a woman who consecrates her efforts to voluntary service in the Church. The women at Tassoni Angele’s funeral were emulating the white attire she donned at the funeral of her husband, the legendary Father Bishoy Kamel (1931- 1979) who founded and served the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Sporting, Alexandria.
Fr Bishoy, who heroically endured cancer till he died, has been lovingly crowned a modern-day saint by the Coptic congregation that venerated his saintliness, love, dedicated service, and passionate mission to save souls. And Tassoni Angele was his soulmate and wife of 20 years, who served with him with epic love and devotion, and continued to do so after his passing away, cloaked in her by-now famous white. “He’s gone to Heaven where he longed to be and where he belongs, so why should I be in mourning black?” she always said.
Tassoni Angele passed away on Sunday 24 November 2019, her 60th marriage anniversary, at her home in Alexandria. She was close to 89.
Pope Tawadros mourned Tassoni Angele in a message of condolence that was read at her funeral service Monday 25 November at Mar-Girgis’s in Sporting. The Pope extended his profuse condolences for the departure of the “blessed sister who was a model of purity and spiritual life in Church.” He remarked on how Tassoni Angele was a true support for Fr Bishoy in his service and how she remained devoted to the service decades after her husband left our world. “Her white attire reflected her blessed journey,” the Pope said. “I knew her closely; she had a cheerful, pleasant smile and contented spirit.”
Once she passed away on the evening of Sunday 24 November, Tassoni Angele’s body was put in a white coffin and placed in front of the shrine of her husband, Fr Bishoy, in the church of Mar-Girgis, Sporting. Midnight Praise was said there, concluding with an early morning Mass. Members of the congregation poured in to partake of her blessings and pay their last respects.
The funeral service was held in the afternoon of Monday 25 November. Fourteen Bishops of the Holy Synod participated in the service, among them her brother Anba Demetrius, Bishop of Mallawi, Ashmonin, and Ansena. A large number of clergy, monks, nuns, church servants and congregation attended; they filled the church and spilled out into the courtyard.
During the service, Anba Pavli, Bishop-General and Bishop of Montaza in Alexandria talked about Tassoni Angele. He said she had consecrated all her life to the Lord and His Church, serving with dedication to her last breath. “She was a model of the virtuous woman who chose to forego all earthly adornment to live a life of service,” Anba Pavli said. “She was a worthy woman, a living Bible; she has departed from our world and is now in eternal glory.” Tassoni Angele was buried in the family grave in Alexandria.
Tassoni Angele was born into a devout Coptic family. She was the sister of Mallawi’s Anba Demetrius, Fr Pigole Bassily, priest of the church of St Mark in Frankfurt; Fr Kyrillos Bassily in Florida; the nuns Tassoni Yustina and Tassoni Aghapi of Abu Seifein convent; the other three brothers live in Alexandria. They are the doctor Fayez Bassily, and the engineers Victor Bassily and Maher Bassily.
Tassoni Angele grew up speaking Coptic with her family members at home; her parents were keen to teach her and her siblings the Coptic language. In fact, today Anba Demetrius teaches and promotes the use of Coptic language in his parish in Mallawi. Although Tassoni Angele always dreamt of being a nun, she ended up marrying Fr Bishoy Kamel on 24 November 1959, and they led a life of celibacy.
Fr Bishoy was the much loved pastor and founder of Mar-Girgis church in Sporting, Alexandria, which was consecrated in 1968. He and Tassoni Angele served the church all through their life on spiritual, pastoral and educational fronts.
In the 1970s, Tassoni served with her husband in the US where she gained a reputation for purity and gentleness. Fr Bishoy had been sent to Los Angeles to raise money to build a Coptic Orthodox church there, which he did in 1970, and also built one in New Jersey in 1974.
“I am Your servant”
Fr Bishoy was born Samy Kamel in Damanhour in Egypt’s west Nile Delta region in 1931. He attended the Alexandria University’s Faculty of Sciences from which he graduated with honours in 1951, later obtaining degrees in literature, psychology, education and philosophy.
On 18 November 1959, Mr Kamel took the children of his Sunday School class to meet the new successor to St Mark, Pope Kyrillos VI (patriarch from 1959 to 1971). The Pope, today a saint in the Coptic Church, greeted him by saying he would be ordained a priest. Out of humility, considering himself to be undeserving of being a pastor, Mr Kamel tried to excuse himself by declaring he was still unmarried—a man elected for priesthood must be married before ordination or remain celibate after ordination. But the Pope replied: “The Spirit of God who inspired me to this decision, will elect for you the bride who will be most suitable for you in your ministry.”
True enough, Samy Kamel married Angele Bassily, a sister of a dear friend, on 24 November, and was ordained on 2 December 1959.
Father Bishoy, who started his service in the Coptic Church as a teacher in Sunday School, is known to have offered children who needed help private tutoring free of charge. He truly loved the children and the people he served, and is famous for a prayer he offered on their behalf: “They are your children, O Lord: Some are good, others are not, others waste themselves … but they are all your children … I am the servant of your children, and have no right to insult or despise any of them, because if I do I would be insulting or despising you … I can only serve them, love them, and assure them of your certain promise that you love them all because it is you who carries the sins of all the world.”
26 November 2019