Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tawadros II Enthroned as Coptic Pope, Grieves over Gaza

 On March 17, 2012, we reported on the death of Pope Shenouda, the 117th leader of the Egyptian Coptic Church (see ).

Yesterday, the Coptic Church enthroned Pope Shenouda’s replacement in the culmination of one of the most unique decision-making processes in all of Christendom: he was chosen by lottery.

Two weeks ago, a young boy was chosen, brought forward to the alter, and blindfolded. He then picked one of three pieces of paper from a jar. The paper was shown to the congregation. On it was the name of Bishop Tawadros, and, according to Copts, this makes him God’s choice to be the next Coptic Pope. The congregation broke into spontaneous applause. 

Youssef Sidhom, editor of the Coptic Watani newspaper, explained “We end up presenting three to heaven, and we ask heaven to choose one of them.”

While westerners often associate the word "pope" with the Roman Catholic Church headquaretetred in the Vatican, the Egyptian and north African Christians have looked to Alexandria (founded by St Mark) as the seat of their patriarchate since at least the second century.  They also call their spiritual leader, "Pope." 

The new pope is 60 years old, with global experience: he studied in Britain, worked in Egypt and abroad, and managed a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. 

Tawadros II steps into leadership at a very delicate time in Egypt. While Copts make up 10% of the Egyptian population (the largest Christian minority in the middle east), Christians have long complained of discrimination, especially as the country's Muslim majority have moved the nation toward religious conservatism since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.  

Tawadros II wasted no time staking out his role in Egyptian life, using the Sunday coronation to express his grief over recent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip saying,

"We share the pain of our brothers in Gaza."

Meanwhile, the world watches as the Israeli-Gaza conflict escalates...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coptic Pope Shenouda III Dies, Increasing Uncertainty Over Egypt's Future

Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, died today at the age of 88 from liver failure. He had served as Pope of Alexandria since November 14, 1971, presiding over a worldwide expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church and maintaining positive relations with Muslim leaders, the Egyptian government (under both Mubarek and the current military regime), and with the wider inter-faith community. His peace-making approach protected Egypt’s Christian Copts, a minority that comprises 10% of a nation that is currently divided between modern secularist Muslims and Islamicists. Recent attacks on Copts have been met by moderate Muslims forming protective human walls around Coptic churches and neighborhoods.

Shenouda was a graduate of Cairo University and the Coptic Orthodox Seminary. Then-Pope Cyril VI summoned him to become the Dean of the Coptic Orthodox Theological University, whereupon he assumed the name Shenouda. On November 14, 1971, he was chosen as the 117th Coptic Pope.

To western Christians, the term “pope” almost exclusively brings to mind the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who is seated in Rome. But the early Christian Church had “patriarchates” not only in Rome, but in Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople (where the current Eastern Orthodox Patriarch is seated) and Alexandria. Much of the North African Church was divided from the Western Church over theological issues following the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD; Alexandria remained the ‘seat’ of leadership to the Africans, who have generally become known as “Copts” (from the word "Egypt"). Their leader, Pope Shenouda, has been instrumental in attempting to restore relations between the African Church and their Asian and European brethren; many modern scholars believe that the 1600-year-old division between the churches is based more on linguistic misunderstandings than actual theological differences.

During his papacy, Pope Shenouda III appointed the first-ever Bishops to preside over North American dioceses, as well as the first Coptic Bishops in Australia, France, England, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and established the first Coptic Churches in South America. He is known for his commitment to Christian unity and has, since the 1970s, advocated inter-denominational Christian dialogue.

In 1973, Pope Shenouda III became the first Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria to meet with the Pope of Rome in over 1500 years. In this visit, they signed a common declaration on the issues that had divided the churches, and agreed to further discussions on Christian unity. In an address he gave during the International Week of Prayer in 1974, he declared,

"The whole Christian world is anxious to see the church unite. Christian people, being fed up with divisions, are pushing their church leaders to do something about church unity and I am sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us.”

In 2000, He was awarded the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence by UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, and in 2007 received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the University of Lawrence in Michigan for his efforts in spreading the values of peace, human love and tolerance in the world. The University declared that Pope Shenouda was a "man of peace who works in his utmost efforts to maintain more understanding between the Middle Eastern people, regardless their religions or nationalities,” and "shows us the way of reconciliation in that region which is torn apart by wars".

At the current time, Egyptian Christians and Muslims share a sense of uncertainty over the future of Egypt, and Pope Shenouda’s death increases the weight of that uncertainty.