On the afternoon of 27 September, the Coptic Orthodox Church lost Anba Hedra, Metropolitan of Aswan and Abbot of the Monastery of Anba Pachomius in Hager Edfu.
Anba Hedra passed away aged 81 after contracting COVID-19.
A funeral service was held for his soul the following day, 28 September, at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Pope Tawadros II presided over the service. Participating were numerous metropolitans and bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church, also priests and a large congregation.
On hope of the Resurrection
Pope Tawadros gave a word, saying: “It is with a heavy heart that we bid Anba Hedra farewell, but we do so on hope of the Resurrection. We do so as we rejoice in the Feast of the Cross, the day he departed our world. We do so in the hope that this man who lived among us as a model faithful servant is now saying with St Paul ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21).”
The Pope described Anba Hedra as one of the pillars of the contemporary Church, whose life was fully dedicated to Christ ever since his early years, serving through pain and joy.
“Divine Providence chose Anba Hedra as Bishop of Aswan,” the Pope said. “Despite hardships, his service bore fruit; Aswan became a model of calm, peaceful, dedicated pastoral care. He deeply cared for his flock, fostered cordial relations with officials, gave generously, was calm and wise, thoughtful when he spoke, and altogether presented a gracious image of Christ’s servant.”
“Today I am certain he is saying with St Paul ‘to die is gain’, because he leaves to the place where grief, sorrow and groaning have fled away, in the light of Christ’s saints.”
Pope Tawadros expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family and disciples of Anba Hedra, to Aswan congregation and the monks of the monastery of Anba Pachomius in Edfu. “We ask for his prayers that God may grant us to complete our years on earth in peace and preparedness.”
In conclusion, Pope Tawadros announced that Anba Bakhoum, Bishop of Sohag, will be papal legate to Aswan “until the Lord arranges matters”.
Anba Hedra’s body was flown to Aswan for another service at the cathedral there amid his flock. He was buried in Aswan.
Angel gone home
Anba Hedra was born Adel Sadeq in the mid-Delta city of Tanta in 1940. He graduated from Alexandria University in 1963 with a degree in Agriculture. While in Alexandria, he served in Sunday School at the church of the Holy Virgin in Smouha. In 1971 he took orders at the monastery of the Holy Virgin known as al-Surian in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert, midway between Cairo and Alexandria. He was then known as the Monk Fr Gawargios al-Suriani, and was placed in charge of the monastery’s library. Later, he became secretary to Pope Shenouda III who was patriarch in 1971 – 2012.
In 1974, Fr Gawargios was consecrated Bishop of Aswan, taking the name Anba Hedra after a beloved 4th/5th century Aswan hermit saint. In 2006, Anba Hedra became Metropolitan of Aswan.
Anba Hedra put a lot of effort into developing the monasteries of Anba Hedra and Anba Pachomius in Aswan. He led a remarkable spiritual and educational renaissance in Aswan.
Anba Hedra was a gentle, worthy, venerable elder who was widely loved and revered by one and all. Tributes by clergy and congregation have extolled his kind heart, compassion and understanding, his wide knowledge, and his dedicated untiring service.
Fr Tadros Y Malaty of Alexandria, who signed as “son” of Anba Hedra, posted a story of when a serious problem once broke in an Aswan church, and resulted in protests in Cairo. Anba Hedra shut the doors of his cell and spent a week in deep prayer. “Suddenly, Aswan Mayor came to visit him. He thanked him for refusing to raise the matter in the media, saying ‘I will never forget your wisdom and love’.”
One especially moving tribute summed it all up: “The angel has gone home to Heaven”.
29 September 2021