CAIRO, November 16, 2012 - On Sunday November 4th, 2 012 at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya ,Cairo, Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church elected a new pope to succeed the late Pope Senouda III. Pope Tawadros II who will be ordained November 18th, 2012 was appointed lead the community through a critical time, as Copts worry over the intentions of the Islamic government and seek to forge a new relationship with their Church.
Pope Tawadros II, a 60 years old former pharmacist who became the auxiliary to the acting head of the Coptic Church and a monk from Alexandria, was chosen in a ceremony where a blindfolded child put his hand into a chalice and took out his name.
Egyptian Copts have long complained of discrimination by the majority of Muslims. Violent clashes often erupted between Muslims and Christians either over land disputes or Christian/Muslim love affairs or a church construction.
Last month, several Christian families fled their homes in Egypt’s Sinai’s peninsula after receiving death threats from suspected Islamist fighters. News reported at least nine families leaving Rafah, a city on the border between Egypt and Israel.
In spite of President Morsy’s congratulations to the new pope and his speech on the importance of the unity and love between the Muslim and Christians as citizens of the same country, the majority of Copts are skeptical about the Islamic government. The Copt community wonders “what tomorrow holds for everyone.” They express their concerns and rejection of the new constitution claiming that it does not serve the interests of all Egyptians, especially minorities, artists and women. More than 182 Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in Egypt warn that the country must reject a constitution that does not grant Copts the full rights of citizens.
The papal election comes during a shift in Christian attitude about their relations to the Church. For many years, Christians depended on the pope to protect their rights. The late pope Shenouda was criticized for being silent rather than calling for Mubarak to step down, even though young people were falling dead as martyrs during last year’s revolution.
The future challenges that await the newly elected pope are numerous and are compounded by the shifting attitude in Christian’s toward their relation to the state. Christians are demanding reforms – much like the Egyptian public demanded and end of the Mubarak regime – in Church rules on several issues, including divorce in the case of adultery or conversion.
Let us hope while congratulating the new pope that he is a man of vision for a better future of Egypt
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