Pope Francis mourns Egyptian cardinal whose life was marked by ‘faith and priestly zeal’

Cardinal Antonios Naguib (1935-2022) Cardinal Antonios Naguib (1935-2022). | Screenshot from Rome Reports in English YouTube channel.

Pope Francis has his offered condolences after the death of the Egyptian Cardinal Antonios Naguib.

Naguib died in Cairo on March 28, nearly 10 years after he retired as the Patriarch of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Catholic Church, for health reasons. He was 87 years old.

In a message sent by the pope to Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, the current Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Francis recalled Naguib’s “faith and priestly zeal” and his prioritization of priestly formation.

“I think of his generous commitment in the field of development and social service; he founded an apostolate group dedicated to the service of the needy and suffering,” Pope Francis wrote in the message published on March 29.

“He was an example of the Good Shepherd in the Church.”

Born in Samalut, Egypt, in 1935, Naguib was raised in a devout Catholic family and entered a minor seminary in Cairo at the age of nine.

As a seminarian, he was sent to study in Rome at the Pontifical Urban University in 1955 before he was ordained a priest in the Coptic Catholic Church at the age of 25.

More than 10% of Egyptians are Copts, which makes them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, with a population of approximately 10 million. The majority of the country’s Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The Coptic Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome. The pope established the Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1824.

Naguib returned to Rome for further studies in 1962, earning licentiates in theology and Scripture. He went on to teach Scripture at the Maadi seminary in Egypt for more than 10 years, before he was elected in 1977 as the bishop of Minya, an area south of Cairo.

Naguib opened new schools for religious education in Egypt and introduced reforms. He was elected Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts in 2006 and was the head of the synod of the Coptic Catholic Church.

Naguib served as relator general in the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops in 2010. Benedict XVI made him a cardinal in November 2010.

He participated in the conclave that elected Pope Francis shortly after he retired as the Patriarch of Alexandria after suffering a stroke in 2011.

The College of Cardinals is now made up of 119 cardinal electors and 92 cardinals who cannot vote in a conclave because they are over the age of 80.

The date and details of Cardinal Naguib’s funeral have yet to be announced.

“I therefore raise my prayers to God and ask him, through the intercession of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, to welcome his faithful servant with the angels and saints into the heavenly Jerusalem,” Pope Francis said.

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