Friday, August 24, 2007

Coptic pope's impact rewarded

Honorary doctorate from Lawrence Tech will honor work promoting religious harmony.
Catherine Jun / The Detroit News
SOUTHFIELD -- Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, will be recognized today for his work promoting peace across religious divisions around the world.

Lawrence Technological University will confer upon him a doctorate of humanities at a convocation on the Southfield campus this afternoon. The event is closed to the public.

"Pope Shenouda's enduring message of peace, love of humanity and forgiveness transcends racial, national and religious identities," said Lawrence Tech President Lewis N. Walker, who will present the honorary degree, in a statement. "He is a man of peace who has worked tirelessly for greater understanding between all the people of the Middle East, regardless of their religion or country. He has shown the way toward reconciliation in a war-torn region."

The 84-year-old patriarch is completing a two-day visit to Michigan today. Wednesday, he greeted members of the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Troy, the main Coptic church in Michigan, which draws about 400 congregants to its Sunday services conducted in Arabic and English.

Pope Shenouda is the 117th head of the Church of Alexandria, which has 12 million followers worldwide, mainly in Egypt. In Michigan, a steady flow of immigrants in the past five years has doubled the number of congregants at the Troy church. "It's something for them to rejoice," Anis Milad of Bloomfield Township, a longtime congregant, about the pope's visit.

In 1973, he became the first Coptic Orthodox pope to visit the Vatican in more than 1,500 years.

Shenouda has promoted religious harmony in Egypt, where tensions rise between Coptic Christians, who make up less than 10 percent of the population, and a mostly Sunni Muslim majority.

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