In its meeting on 2 June, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church issued decisions of special significance. They read as follows:
1. Designation of the date 8 Amshir, 15 February, as Modern-Age Coptic Martyrs Day, to be marked every year to commemorate the martyrs
2. Foundation of a special department in the General Bishopric for Social Services to be in charge of caring for the families of the martyrs and confessors
3. Official recognition of the monastery of Mar-Boqtor (St Victor) in Khatatba
4. Confirmation of the decision previously taken by the Holy Synod in its session of 10 June 1995: “It is not allowed for anyone to print, reprint, or use any books for rituals used for worship in the Church without approval of the rites committee of the Synod”
5. No melody is accredited as reference for Coptic hymns or melodies other than that approved by the Holy Synod’s rites committee
6. The Holy Synod confirms the need for a couple contemplating engagement and marriage to pass a certified pre-marriage Church-approved course from a Church-approved centre as a pre-condition for an official engagement to take place
1. The Care and Service Committee:
The Synod’s committee for battling addiction and substance abuse recommends that every diocese appoint a priest or volunteer servant to be responsible for addiction cases, while encouraging those that have medical centres or hospitals to establish a department for psychiatry. The committee also recommends that dioceses work to raise awareness on the dangers of addiction and substance abuse, at the various age and educational levels. It also requests the training of priests and volunteer workers of both genders on ways to battle addiction.
2. The Committee of Faith, Education and Legislation:
The committee values the efforts of H.H. Pope Tawadros II regarding ecumenical relations, and for his signing a common declaration with Pope Francis on Friday 28 April 2017, published in al-Kiraza magazine on Friday 5 May 2017, issue 17 and 18 of year 45, pp 6-7. A wonderful ecumenical prayer celebration took place thereafter at the church of St Peter and St Paul, al-Boutrossiya church, in honour of the martyrs who had died at this church [in the suicide bombing on 11 December 2016]. Participating in this prayer were Patriarch Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; and the Popes of Alexandria and of Rome, as well as the leaders of Churches in Egypt. It was a great day for the strengthening of ecumenical relations.
The committee also confirms the distinction between join statements released by Church leaders and official theological agreements that must be affirmed by holy Synods (leaders) of each Church.
3. The Committee of Medical Matters[:]
Christian teaching clearly states that any believer is defiled only by sin. Also, the human [body] ‘is the temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:19), which only leaves a person in case he dies in sin. Thus, a woman is pure and a temple for the Holy Spirit all the days of her life. However, in view of godliness and adequate preparation to partake of the Holy Sacrament of Communion, and in view of abiding by the tradition handed down to us, it is fitting for a man or woman to abstain from Communion in periods of physical unpreparedness*, except in exceptional cases for pastoral reasons as decided by the priest who is the spiritual-guide for the individual. We also confirm that a woman is not prohibited under any circumstances from performing all other spiritual practices including: personal prayers, the liturgy, reading the bible, service, or being present in church. We also confirm that a new-born child (male or female) can be baptised any day after birth if necessary.”
*Physical unpreparedness: bodily discharge of all kinds: nocturnal emission, menstrual cycle, post-birth bleeding, sexual intercourse
Proud of the martyrs
Prior to its session, the Holy Synod issued a statement in which it recalled that its members were convening in the wake of painful events that befell the Coptic people. In this they meant the suicide bombing at Boutrossiya church in Cairo on 11 December 2016, the twin suicide bombings at Mar-Girgis’s (St George) in the mid-Delta town of Tanta and St Mark’s in Alexandria on Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017; and the recent shooting of Copts in buses headed to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, Upper Egypt. Altogether, these four incidents claimed some 100 Coptic lives, as well as security guards. The statement also alluded to the eight deaths of Copts at the hand of Islamists in the North Sinai town of al-Arish, and the dire threats to the Coptic townspeople, which drove hundreds of them to leave town and relocate elsewhere in Egypt.
The statement stressed that the Church takes pride in her children who died on account of their faith, and those who refused to deny it, especially the children; also in their families who, through faith, were able to endure the pain and hardship and announce they had forgiven the perpetrators of the violence, just as the Bible taught us to love enemies and do good to those that hate. It confirmed the Church’s staunch support of the families of the martyrs, and its constant prayer for them. It said the suffering and pain would only serve to make the Church hold on more closely to Christ.
Faithful to love and peace
“The Church will always remain faithful to her historic constants,” the statement said. “She will always promote peace in the community, the painful violence will only serve to make us adhere more to Christian love. There can be no use or good in us if we do not love all indiscriminately. Jesus Christ taught us: ‘By this all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another’.”
The Holy Synod decided to fully document the details of the above incidents in order to immortalise her faithful children, also to designating the date 8 Amshir, 15 February an annual Modern-Age Martyrs Day
Special appreciation was given to Pope Tawadros as a figure of a loving father and caring pastor. A word of thanks was directed to the Russian Orthodox Church for awarding Pope Tawadros the prize of the International Public Foundation of the Unity of Orthodox Nations.
4 June 2017