The future of the Egyptian Church
Michel Fahmy | 3 April 2012
We, Orthodox Christians and many other denominations, have a strong belief that the church is leaded and sponsored by the Lord himself. As it is the body of Him, and the Patriarch is the head of priesthood service not the head of priesthood.
I mention this because the Egyptian Orthodox Church had passed through different eras… up and down, about two thousand years ago, acquiring certain features over a long time which led it to be unique and distinguished from other churches. It is considered one of the oldest churches all over the world which had an effect on the community as well as all over the world.
I was motivated to write this article upon receiving many questions about the future of the Egyptian church after Pope Shenouda had departed, after he had done his best for his church and nation.
It is too early to evaluate his performance and actions while his children are still mourning his departure. However, church is the body of Christ and will last forever according to His promise. Its future is guaranteed as it doesn’t stand upon persons whoever they are; even the martyrdom of St. Mark didn’t stop the Egyptian church.
The future of the Egyptian Orthodox church is mainly based on the power and stability of its people’s faith. In addition to its archbishop and his spiritual stature.
Coptic Church was established in the second half of the first century, about 62 AD, when St. Mark the apostle came to Egypt preaching Christianity. So, he was called the Evangelist. Thus, he was the first Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox church. After that, and for a long time, church was facing an era of persecution against Christians by the Romanian Empire. St. Mark martyred in 68, as it was mentioned in the traditions, he was dragged in the streets and alleys of Alexandria shedding his blessed blood in the streets of the city. This very first Patriarch has been preaching and doing his pastoral care for few years, then martyred after he had spread Christianity all over Egypt.
When he martyred, no many questions about the future of Christianity in Egypt were asked, but rather smoothly Anianus took office as the Patriarch. He was a shoemaker who received the grace of priesthood by St. Mark after he had preached him and his family upon returning from Libya guided by the Holy Spirit. He was the second Patriarch.
This happened very smoothly as the first Christian communities composed mainly of ordinary people and low classes, with less numbers of the elite and intellectuals. Moreover, this community was strong in faith relying on the Lord Jesus more than any other spiritual leader.
Let’s consider God’s work in this example: the departure of St. Mark was irreplaceable, as a disciple of the Lord, the author of the second Gospel, the preacher of Egypt and the Evangelist. Who can replace him? However, God’s hands arranged a saintly shoemaker to replace the great St. Mark.
It was important to mention this historical example to prove the idea mentioned in the beginning of this article. As the church has a Lord caring for it as His body. No need to worry about the Coptic Orthodox church that proved its patriotism in more difficult situations than the one passing currently by Egypt.
No worry about the Coptic Church, the patriot one during the Roman and Byzantine eras, and during two centuries of the presence of European Armies which were mistakenly called the Crusader armies.
Fear not for this church who refused the protection of the Russian Empire when no one had imagined it would vanish soon, and when other minorities in the middle east were under protection of foreign countries.
Fear not for the Coptic Orthodox church who refused the cooperation with Great Britain while some nomadic tribes did and this cooperation was the reason behind the defeat of the Egyptian Army at the Great Hill battle and other tribes did for getting exempted of the mandatory hiring in the Egyptian Army. Coptic church has refused the protection of the British Empire when it was the strongest empire all over the world (It had been said that the sun never leaves the British flag), and when the British army was already in Egypt enjoying a strong influence.
Don’t worry about the Coptic Orthodox church that bore among her children Father Sergius Sergius who was nicknamed the spokesman of 1919 revolution. He was the first man of the Egyptian church who stands on the pulpit of Al-Azhar addressing both Christians and Muslims and attacking the British occupation for Egypt. Moreover, after the revolution of 1952, there was a great friendship between president Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Pope Cyril VI. This relationship resulted in building the Cathedral of St. Mark, Abbassiya where the funeral of Pope Shenouda III was held.
Don’t worry about the Coptic church as it is extremely patriot, wise, spiritual, keeping and preaching the orthodox dogma through years and eras.
I only worry about church form some Copts who are driven by propaganda of some potential candidates for the Pope elections. The real danger is the division of the church, which will affect all over Egypt.
Not all Christians were always on the same level of wisdom and patriotism of the Coptic church. The church has been working with two hands: clergy, and lay people, both not separated. It’s very important to have an Egyptian Christian Patriarch who keeps the Orthodox dogma and spread it among his people, A Patriarch who is very patriot to care about Egypt as well as his people. And a Christian community that works with church leaders through General Congregation Council whose members come together to pray rather than count the money and discuss how to spend it.
Now we hear the title of General Congregation Council’s member in a political way. This is great, however they shouldn’t be chosen by the bishopric.
We want the old glories of Copts politicians to return. We saw Senout Hanna and Makram Ebaid who have been exiled with Saad Zaghloul. We want the return of Copts that found and managed many schools and hospitals all over Egypt. We can do it now. We shouldn’t be over optimistic or dependence, under the claims of persecution and oppression. We should refuse it and rather start our national work as much as we can.
This is the future that we want for the Egyptian Coptic Church, and I warn of supporting a bishop against another in the Pope elections. To those who say we should chose a Pope who is non-confrontational, I say: since the very beginning of the Coptic church, it has never been confrontational.
Finally, I say that no one who seek the Pope office would be worthy of it!