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Coptic Orthodox pope travels to Euless to consecrate church

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/020408dnmetcopticpope.3214335.html Coptic Orthodox pope travels to Euless to consecrate church
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2008

      Coptic Orthodox pope travels to Euless to consecrate church

      10:35 PM CST on Sunday, February 3, 2008

      By KATHY A. GOOLSBY / The Dallas Morning News

      EULESS TX– Three years after its founding, St.
      Abanoub Coptic Orthodox Church received the
      blessing of the church's patriarch on Sunday.

      Pope Shenouda III journeyed from Egypt to lead
      the 2 ½-hour service, which was attended by an
      overflow crowd and included prayers for "the
      peace, the fathers and the assemblies." It
      culminated with the consecration of the church's altar.

      "Send down upon us the grace of your holy
      spirit," the 84-year-old pope prayed as he and
      four bishops rubbed incense onto the altar's wooden surface.

      A flurry of excitement erupted from the packed
      house as Pope Shenouda circled the room's outer
      walls, blessing pictures of the church's icons.
      Congregants strained to get a close-up glimpse as
      he passed or to capture the pope's image on cellphones or digital cameras.

      "This is a huge thing," said Ramiz Gilada, who is
      on the church's board. "It is an event that happens only every 20 or 25 years."

      Church member Ereney Nagib of Grand Prairie said
      the pope's visit is a huge blessing for the church.

      "It's like God came to visit us because he gives
      us the messages from God's mouth," said Ms.
      Nagib, 28. "The pope is like a father to us, and
      we have been waiting for him to come here."

      The Euless church is one of five that the pope is
      consecrating during his U.S. visit, officials
      said. Church consecration by the pope is a
      longstanding tradition of the Christian Coptic
      Orthodox Church, which was founded in Egypt more than 19 centuries ago.

      The group claims 15 million members and has
      churches in every state, including two other
      North Texas congregations in Colleyville and Richardson.

      Officials at the Euless church, which is led by
      the Rev. Ghobrial Samaan and counts 184 families
      in its membership, learned of the pope's visit
      only two weeks ago, Mr. Gilada said.

      "Normally, you have about six months' notice," he said.

      Church members scrambled to prepare for the
      pope's arrival on Saturday, when he attended the
      evening prayer in preparation for Sunday's
      service. Euless Mayor Mary Libb and Police Chief
      Michael Brown attended the consecration, which
      alternated between English and Arabic.

      "It's just awe-inspiring," Ms. Libb said. "I
      think it's a treasure to see something like this happen."

      Pope Shenouda sat on an ornately carved wooden
      chair during the ceremony, rising occasionally to
      lead prayers and blessings. He frequently waved a
      censer, a domed metal container used to burn incense, during the liturgy.

      After the official service ended, a plain wooden
      chair was pulled forward and Pope Shenouda sat
      down to address the congregants. His humorous
      side bubbled to the surface almost immediately.

      "Now we are crowded into the church, I want it
      every Sunday to be the same," he said, evoking
      laughter from the congregants, many of whom came
      from other churches for Sunday's special service.

      He gently reminded Father Samaan to get to know
      all the families in the church, and he urged
      parents to be good teachers for their children.

      "When I ask children, 'What did you take in
      Sunday school?' they always tell me the same
      three lessons," Pope Shenouda said. "The 'I don't
      know' lesson, the 'I don't remember' lesson and the 'I didn't attend' lesson."

      Turning to the women, who were seated on one side
      of the sanctuary, he told them it's their job to
      ensure the children are learning their lessons.

      When the women pointed at the men across the
      aisle, it was the pope's turn to laugh.

      "Transferring sins from one to the other is not
      accepted," he said, eyes twinkling.

      As the time to leave drew near, Pope Shenouda
      stood and bestowed a final blessing on the gathering.

      "I wish for you a blessed life abiding in the Lord, and also a happy life."
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