News / Africa

Tawadros Chosen as New Pope of Egypt's Coptic Christians

Egypt's Coptic Christians have a new leader.  Bishop Tawadros has been chosen to succeed the late Pope Shenouda and to shepherd one of the world's oldest Christian communities during precarious times.  

At Cairo's Abbasiya Cathedral, the final choice came down to a young boy, led to the altar where three names had been placed in a jar.  Blindfolded, to let what the faithful believe is the hand of God guide him, the boy reached for the paper that would reveal the next pope.

With that gesture, Bishop Tawadros of Beheira became the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle.

  • The three final candidates for pope are projected on a TV screen at Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, November 4, 2012. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
  • Acting Coptic Pope Bakhomious, center, displays the name of 60-year-old Bishop Tawadros, soon to be Pope Tawadros II, during the papal election ceremony at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, November 4, 2012.
  • Interim Pope Bakhomious leading Sunday's ceremonies at Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, November 4, 2012. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
  • Egyptian caretaker of the Coptic Church, interim Pope Bakhomious celebrates the ceremony announcing the name of the 118th pope of Egypt's Coptic, Cairo, November 4, 2012.
  • Egyptian Copts attend the ceremony during which the 118th leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church was chosen in Cairo, November 4, 2012.
  • Coptic bishops at Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, November 4, 2012. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
Interim pope Bakhomious, to whom Tawadros has been an aide, led the ceremony that brought an end to months of uncertainty in Egypt's time of transition.

Bakhomious said the world lacks peace because it has ignored spiritual work. The basic, only source of peace, he said, is Jesus Christ.

Tawadros faces daunting challenges as he succeeds Pope Shenouda. The late pope led for more than 40 years, in an uneasy accommodation with the old government.  Many Copts worry Egypt's new Islamist leadership will mean a diminished role in their ancestral home.

Coptic lawyer Mansour Hosny Fahmy Kezman took part in the pre-selection electoral process.

He says Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, have no good representation in political or democratic work - not even in job opportunities.

President Mohamed Morsi, who came from the Muslim Brotherhood, has promised to be a leader of all Egyptians. But his government has failed to stop attacks on Christians by Islamic extremists.

Church member Nagy Lotfy Tamer is from a region in Upper Egypt with a strong presence of Muslim fundamentalists. He says churches are demolished, and thugs and “terrorists” storm into Christians' homes.

Some are trying to be more optimistic.  “We put many things for Christianity in Egypt [they] did not [have] or was not before. I mean, I think it will be better than before,” said church spokesman Anba Pola, who is part of the group drafting a new constitution for the country.

But the Coptic Church also faces challenges from within. Younger members, empowered by the revolution that swept away Egypt's old political order last year, are beginning to raise demands of their religious leaders as well.

Anba Pola says the church is listening.

"We are thinking about our future," said Pola. "The church without young [people] is a church without future."

The church spokesman says the new pope, guided by the Holy Spirit, will rise to any challenge. Tawadros will be enthroned in a ceremony later this month, attended by President Morsi.

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Comment Sorting
by: Mhee from: Philippines
November 09, 2012 8:54 PM
If Pres. Morsi will truly fulfill his promise to be a leader of all Egyptians, a muslims or a christians I'm sure the world will salute you for that.

by: Anonymous
November 05, 2012 11:39 AM
Tawadros should understand that his is not only to represent the Christians in Egypt, he should also find out why Egypt's population of Christians is a paltry 10%. He should press for not just more rights but equal rights for his coptics and other minority groups in the country. His is a position of total sacrifice: he should not be afraid to stick out his neck to speak for the down-trodden Christians and other minorities in the Morsi regime which is now in the political spotlight watched all over the world. He should take advantage of the democratic evolution to assert the rights and equality of all Egyptians under president Morsi's islamist fundamentalism. He must force Morsi out of the cocoon of islamegalomania if he(Morsi) truly will be president to all Egyptians.

This is Tawadros' chance to break that circle of doom for all time. Egypt without freedom of worship/religion is not acceptable. The news that soon after the Egypt Spring some Christians were run over by an army tank protesting the burning of a Church because a muslim youth crossed over to Christianity is still fresh in the memory. Tawadros' tenure must ensure that such scenarios do not reoccur, after all it's no noise when a Christian turns muslim, why is the reverse the case when a muslim turns Christian? Anyone finding self under bondage should be free to change position, and Egypt must accept the rights and freedoms of the people to do so. Nothing less is acceptable, not anywhere in the world, not in Egypt.

by: Anonymous
November 04, 2012 12:43 PM
Gods be with us

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