Hundreds of Coptic Christians crowded the intersection of Bergen Avenue and Vroom Street in Jersey City yesterday afternoon, to witness the unveiling of a street sign in honor of Pope Shenouda III.
Among those attending the ceremony to rename the intersection Pope Shenouda III Way were U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and His Grace Bishop David, the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Prior to the unveiling ceremony, roughly 400 people packed into St. George & St. Shenouda Church, at 835 Bergen Ave., for a standing-room only ceremony with prayers and hymns in memory of the Pope.
Shenouda was the 117th pope and Patriarch of the Orthodox Coptic Church based in Alexandria, Egypt. He served from 1971 until he died on March 17 this year and in that capacity presided over several million Copts worldwide.
Members of the clergy remembered Shenouda as a poet, writer, educator, “father and shepherd.”
“The life of his holiness was so special in so many ways,” David said. “Anyone who came in contact with his Holiness was impacted one way or another. He was not just a leader, he was a poet and a sensitive man … His love was evident in the way he led the church. He loved everyone.”
When Shenouda became the church’s leader in 1971, the only Coptic Church in New Jersey was St. Marks on West Side Avenue. Now there are more than 20 churches in the state, church officials said.
There are also 30,000 Copts in the city, said Maggi Khalil, a community organizer and Jersey City municipal prosecutor.
“We are here today to name a street after someone who is so very much deserving of it,” Healy said. “Pope Shenouda … was recognized for emphasizing education for all of our youngsters but also for reaching out, not just to other Christian communities but other cultures and religions of all kinds.”
Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop co-sponsored the council resolution to have the intersection named for Shenouda with Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez.
“We gather proudly and faithfully to remember the longtime spiritual leader of millions of Christians in Egypt and around the world,” Menendez said, adding that he’s called on the current government of Egypt to respect the right of Copts to worship in freedom.