Pope Shenouda III was born Nazeer Gayed in August 1923 to a conservative Christian Family. By his teens, he was heavily involved in the Sunday School movement, which encouraged the return of religious education programs in Coptic communities.
In 1949, he completed his undergraduate studies in history at Cairo University. Upon graduation, he joined the Coptic Orthodox Seminary, becoming a faculty member after ordination.
In July 1954, he became a monk and later, a monk priest. In 1962, he was appointed by Pope Cyril VI as bishop of Christian Education and President of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. He was given the clerical name Shenouda then, after the Coptic saint and author, Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite.
Early on in his clerical career, he called for the unity of the Coptic community around the church. Not long after taking on his education responsibilities, he successfully mobilized thousands of youths around this vision. Each Friday, he delivered a lesson in the cathedral on daily matters such as dating, studying and family planning.
His sermons attracted thousands of Copts each week. He was also known for his radical views and his attempts at politicizing the church since first entering the clergy. In his speeches, he dared to hint at criticism of then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser, at a time when his regime was held up as infallible.
[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]