His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Dr. Anba Abraham passed away in Jerusalem on Wednesday 25 November 2015 and was laid to rest on the grounds of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday 28 November 2015. In a surprise move, Coptic Pope Tawadros II presided over the ceremonies; a Coptic pope has not visited Jerusalem in 35 years and, in fact, there is a ban on Copts visiting Jerusalem and the holy sites as long as it is under Israeli occupation.
The visit was very low key and limited to the funeral services. No official meetings or contacts were made with Israeli officials. Several times, the pope reiterated the private nature of this particular visit and emphasized that it does not in any way break from the existing ban.
During the funeral services, Pope Tawadros spoke eloquently about his close relationship with the late Archbishop Anba Abraham and recalled the various stages of his life. He highlighted that, in the Coptic hierarchy, the archbishop of Jerusalem is the second most important figure after the Pope and the first among equals in the synod of bishops. He further urged all present to live a faithful life full of good deeds and service to others, always upholding Christian values.
In addition to Pope Tawadros, a delegation of 10 other Coptic bishops from around the Coptic world joined him. Representatives of all the churches of Jerusalem representing the varied landscape were all in attendance, including Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem Giuseppe Lazzarotto as well as Bishops representing the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Assysrian, Anglican, Lutheran, as well as all the Oriental Catholic churches. Representatives of both the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel were also present, joining several hundred people who came to bid him farewell.
Archbishop Anba Abraham was born in Sohag, Egypt, in 1943 and received undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology in 1967 and 1971 respectively. He held a doctoral degree in medicinal plants, graduating from Ein Shams University in Cairo in 1976. He became a monk in 1983; in 1991, he was called to become the archbishop of Jerusalem by Pope Shenouda III. He was highly respected within the local community for his humility.
In Jerusalem, CNEWA-Pontifical Mission for Palestine has maintained a very close relationship with the Coptic Orthodox Church. CNEWA has provided numerous grants to its institutions, supported services in education through the two Coptic schools operating in the Old City of Jerusalem, and funded renovations to a Coptic convent in Bethlehem.
Our prayers are with our Coptic brothers and sisters who are grieving this loss. May he rest in eternal peace.