New Coptic Pope welcomed by church and state leaders

09 November 2012


Elevated: Acting Pope Bakhomius (left) displays the name of the new Pope, Tawadrous II, who is depicted in the large poster, during the papal-election ceremony at the Coptic St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo on Sunday

Elevated: Acting Pope Bakhomius (left) displays the name of the new Pope, Tawadrous II, who is depicted in the large poster, during the papal-electi...

THE Islamist head of state in Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi, and the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, were among the first senior figures last Sunday to congratulate the newly chosen leader of the Coptic Orthodox community, Pope Tawadrous II. Salafist leaders, by contrast, made no reference to his appointment.

Pope Tawadrous, who will be enthroned on 18 November, takes office at a time when Christians in Egypt feel marginalised and challenged by the recent political success enjoyed by Islamists. The new Pope has committed himself to work for greater integration of Copts with the ruling Muslim majority.

The President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, said on Tuesday that many Egyptian Christians "had hoped that the Revolution of 25 January 2011 would relieve them from oppression and from the hardships they have been facing before. They are now hoping that the new Pope will be a voice for them."

The process of selecting a leader to succeed the late Pope Shenouda III began last week (News, 2 November). Bishop Tawadrous, aged 60, was one of three Coptic leaders to be chosen in preliminary elections. On Sunday, in accordance with tradition, a blindfolded child in the Coptic Cathedral of St Mark, in the Abbasiya district of Cairo, selected one of three pieces of paper to choose the winner.

The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Angaelos, said in a statement: "The atmosphere was wonderfully joyous in the Cathedral. . . . There was such a euphoric reaction when the name of Bishop Tawadrous was announced. We now shift our prayers from God's selection to God's guidance to lead our beloved Coptic Orthodox Church."

Pope Tawadrous, who graduated in pharmacy and worked for a time in the pharmaceutical industry, became a monk in 1988, before being ordained priest. Ten years later, he became a bishop. He has written 12 books on theology.

After his appointment, Pope Tawadrous addressed the issue that is at the forefront of Christians' minds in Egypt: what the future might hold for them in a country where Islamist groups are now dominant. He made it clear that he would press for Copts to live side by side with all other Egyptians rather than be an isolated minority. He promised to serve "the Egyptian people as a whole, Muslims and Christians. It is a very important priority for us all that we should live together." His heart was "open to everybody", he said, "and I carry pure love to everybody on the land of Egypt."


One of the chief concerns of Copts and secular Egyptians is that the Muslim-dominated body that is drafting the new constitution will force through articles that impose Islamic values on the country. In an interview on Monday, Pope Tawardrous said: "A constitution that hints at imposing a religious state in Egypt is absolutely rejected. If a good constitution is presented in which every person finds himself represented, there is no doubt that Egypt will develop."

Among the messages of congratulations for the Coptic Pope was one from Pope Benedict XVI, who said that Pope Tawadrous would be "a genuine spiritual father for your people, and an effective partner with all your fellow citizens in building the new Egypt in peace and harmony". The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales asked Bishop Angaelos to convey to the new Pope "the assurance of the prayers of all the bishops and faithful of the Catholic Church in this country for him, as he prepares to take up his leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church throughout the world."

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that he was aware of the new Pope's "striving towards unity and love between the various communities in Egypt, and we pray that your ministry, in these uncertain times, will be strong in the quest for freedom, equality, justice, and peace."


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