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 the world may believe (cf Jn 17:21). 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
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The history of Christianity in Egypt dates back to the visit of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to that land. (Matt. 2) It predates any claimed Islamic history. To the Christians who live in that historic land, the history of the Christian Church is the history of Egypt.
The Evangelist Mark brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Egypt in 61 A.D. and planted the Church there, deep in the soil of that land of martyrs and saints. Egypt has a proud, long, unbroken and vital Christian heritage. We must pray for and defend Christians in Egypt as hostility toward the faith grows under the new regime.
The majority of Christians in Egypt are Coptic Orthodox. The very word "Copt" comes from an early Greek name for Egypt. Christianity and Egypt have a long and holy history. Perhaps that is part of the reason why the persistent and accellerating persecution of Christians in Egypt is so reprehenisble. Their claim to live in this land is strong, vital and clear.
We regularly cover the plight of our Coptic Orthodox Christian brethren in Egypt. They are heroic witnesses to the Gospel. Their suffering and shedding of their blood for the ancient faith should draw every Christian to our knees. It demands a response of support and solidarity from all who can help. Five lives were lost in skirmishes with militant Muslims as recently as October 28, 2012.
We have repeatedly urged our global readership to pray for Coptic Orthodox Christians and for Catholic Christians in Egypt in this critical hour. The presence of Coptic Christians in this ancient holy land is vital. Their presence precedes any Muslim claims. They are our brethren, joined to us in the bonds of Baptismal communion.
The beloved Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III died in March at 88years old. The process of choosing his successor has been informed by prayer and prepared for by a three day fast of the faithful. It also followed an intense process of elimination of a group of candidates through voting.
The selection was narrowed down to three candidates and the decision was made by a blindfolded young altar server - in keeping with the ancient tradition of "casting lots". We find the biblical roots of such a practice recorded in the Acts of the Apostles when the Church at Jerusalem gathered to replace Judas:
"Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection."
"So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:21- 26)
In addition, Pope Shenouda had emphasized the ancient roots of the practice in one of his 2009 messages. He asked that it be used to choose his successor. He believed it ensured that "the choice of the Patriarch is really the choice of God".
So, his successor,was chosen in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday and named the new Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Mark. The selection took place in the context of a beautiful Liturgy.
The anticipated announcement was proclaimed from the altar, accompanied by Church Bells. It spread throughout the churches and was aired over television. Bishop Tawadros will be enthroned in a ceremony on November 18, 2012 as the 118th pope of the ancient Coptic Orthodox Church.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to His Holiness Abna Tawadros, the new head of the Coptic Orthodox Church which is set forth below.
His Holiness Anba Tawadros, Pope-elect of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
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 the 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.
Benedictus PP. XVI
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