ROME — Egyptian Cardinal Antonios Naguib, retired patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church, died March 28 at the age of 87.
He passed away at a hospital in Cairo after a lengthy illness.
According to tradition, the Copts received the Christian faith from the apostle St. Mark. There are some 187,000 Coptic Catholics in the world, mostly living in Egypt, but there are also parishes in France, Canada, the United States and Australia.
In his seven years as patriarch of Alexandria, he was also the president of the Synod of the Coptic Catholic Church and president of the assembly of the Catholic hierarchy of Egypt.
Patriarch Naguib was born March 18, 1935, in Samalout, Egypt. He studied at the Maadi seminary outside Cairo as well as in Rome.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1960, he served as a parish priest in Fikriyah, Egypt, for a year before returning to Rome to complete degrees in theology and sacred Scripture.
He taught sacred Scripture at the Maadi seminary for 13 years and he also worked with other scholars to produce a new translation of the New Testament into modern standard Arabic.
He was elected bishop of Minya, Egypt, in 1977 and led the diocese until he stepped down in 2002 at the age of 67 for “a period of rest.” During his leadership, ongoing formation for priests, religious and laypeople was one of his main priorities as well as promoting peaceful coexistence through education; he established three Catholic schools — open to Christians and Muslims — in the diocese.
He was elected patriarch of the Cairo-based Coptic Catholic Church in 2006 and Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2010 just one month after the patriarch served as the recording secretary of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
The patriarch suffered a stroke in 2011 and had a slow recovery; he retired in 2013 at the age of 77.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 211 members, 119 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.