Originally published in Cisna News
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church chose a new pope, Tawadros II, in a sumptuous service on Sunday November 5 and Christians hope he will lead them through an Islamist-dominated landscape and protect what is the Middle East’s biggest Christian community, according to Reuters.
Christians, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 83 million population, worry about political gains made by Islamists since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year. Radical Islamists have been blamed for attacks on churches several times since, but Copts have long complained of discrimination in Muslim-majority Egypt.
In a ritual steeped in tradition and filled with prayer, chants and incense at Abbasiya cathedral in Cairo, the names of three papal candidates chosen in an earlier vote were placed in a wax-sealed bowl before a blindfolded boy picked out one name.
“Pope Tawadros II is the 118th (leader of the church), blessed congratulations to you,” said the interim Pope Bakhomious, who was dressed in gold-embroidered robes.
As he held the name aloft, the congregation in the packed cathedral applauded. The formal ceremony to install Bishop Tawadros, 60, as pope will take place on November 18, a priest said.
Pope Shenouda was criticised by some Christians for being too close to Mubarak. Church analysts say he was partly prompted to take a strong advocacy role in Mubarak’s era because many Christians withdrew from public life, complaining of discrimination, leaving the pope their main defender.
“Pope Tawadros faces different rules of the political game,” said Youssef Sidhom, editor of the Coptic newspaper Watani. “Copts are now encouraged and even encouraged by the church, to get out and participate in the political arena.”
Meanwhile Pope Benedict XVI has sent a congratulatory message to the newly elected Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, His Holiness Anba Tawadros, who has been chosen as Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark in Cairo.
“I was filled with joy on learning of your election as pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the see of Saint Mark and I gladly extend to you and to the clergy and faithful of the Coptic Orthodox Church my good wishes and prayerful solidarity, asking the Lord to pour out his abundant blessings upon the lofty ministry you are about to assume.
“I am confident that, like your renowned predecessor Pope Shenouda III, you will 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, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East. In these challenging times, it is important for all Christians to bear witness to the love and fellowship that binds them together, mindful of the prayer offered by our Lord at the Last Supper: That all may be one, so that world may believe (cf. Jn. 17:21).
“I thank the Almighty for the important progress that was made, under the leadership of your esteemed predecessor, in the relations between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, and I earnestly hope and pray that our continuing friendship and dialogue, guided by the Holy Spirit, will bear fruit in ever closer solidarity and lasting reconciliation. May our Heavenly Father fill you with peace and strength for the noble task that awaits you,” said Pope Benedict XVI.