Bishop Tawadros Egypt’s new Pope
Bishop Tawadros has been chosen as the new pope of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, becoming the leader of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
His name was selected from a bowl by a blindfolded boy at a ceremony in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral. Three candidates had been shortlisted.
The 60-year-old succeeds Pope Shenouda III, who died in March aged 88.
Attacks on Copts are on the increase, and many Copts say they fear the country’s new Islamist leaders.
The other two candidates were Bishop Raphael and Father Raphael Ava Mina. They were chosen in a ballot by a council of some 2,400 Church and community officials in October.
‘In God’s hands’
Their names were written on pieces of paper and put in crystal balls sealed with wax on the church altar.
A blindfolded boy – one of 12 shortlisted children – then drew out the name of Bishop Tawadros.
Strict measures were in place to make sure there is no foul play during the televised ceremony: the three pieces of paper with candidates’ names were all the same size and tied up the same way.
Copts say this process ensures the selection is in God’s hands.
Bishop Tawadros will be enthroned in a ceremony on 18 November.
“This election is of great importance because choosing the head of the church is not an easy matter and it is of major importance to all Egyptians, both Christians and Muslims,” the deputy head of the Alexandria Church, Roas Morkos, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
“It is also important how the pope will care for the needs of Christians and how he will carry the spirit of Pope Shenouda III in dealing with the state as well as our Muslim brothers and all other factions,” he added.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says no-one in Egypt expects the new pope to introduce radical changes to the deeply conservative church.
Pope Shenouda died in March at the age 88.
Under his leadership, the Coptic Church expanded significantly, including outside its traditional Egyptian base.
He was a passionate advocate of unity among the Christian churches, and also clashed with then President Anwar Sadat, particularly over their conflicting views on the future of Egypt’s relationship with Israel.
Coptic Christians have long complained of discrimination by the Egyptian state and the country’s Muslim majority.
But when President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year and succeeded by the Muslim Brotherhood, their fears grew.
In October 2011, 25 people died in clashes with the security forces after a protest march in Cairo over the burning of a church.
Jon LeyneBBC News, Cairo
Many leading Copts believe the new pope should play a less overtly political role. Activists hope that ordinary Copts can make their voices heard by winning more seats in the now democratically elected parliament.
Yet the new pope may want to make his views known quickly on how prominent a role Islamic, or Sharia, law should play in the new constitution currently under negotiation.
He will also need to calm fears that Copts could be squeezed out of government jobs, and even that new sectarian strife could erupt.
- Estimates of the number of Coptic Christians in Egypt range from 5.6m to 11m
- Descended from ancient Egyptians; Coptic language is derived from ancient Egyptian
- Split from Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics in 451AD in row over nature of Christ
- On most issues doctrinally similar to Eastern Orthodox Church