The Committee for Monasticism and Monastery Affairs, affiliated to the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, has held a special meeting to discuss the discipline of monastic and monastery life, in light of the recent martyrdom [murder] of Anba Epiphanius, Abbot of the Monastery of St Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert. Pope Tawadros II presided over the meeting which saw the participation of Anba Danial, Secretary-General of the Holy Synod, as well as 19 bishops and abbots.
The Committee issued 12 decrees which were made public on Thursday 2 August 2018:
1. A halt is imposed on the acceptance of novices and on allowing would-be monks to take orders in all Coptic Orthodox monasteries in Egypt for a period of one year that starts August 2018.
2. Monks who established monastic settlements without the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate will be stripped of monkhood and priesthood; the stripping will be made public. The establishment of new monasteries is disallowed, except in case of reviving old monasteries [that may have gone into disuse over time]; such revival can only be done through the sponsorship and efforts of a currently recognised, thriving monastery.
3. With the aim of enhancing the quality of monastic life and disciplining monastic activity, every monastery is required to define the number of monks it can accommodate, according to its conditions and capabilities. This number should be respected and adhered to.
4. The ordination of monks as priests is to be suspended for a period of three years,
5. Laypersons are absolutely banned from attending ceremonies of monastic vows and ordination, in order to respect the reverence and sanctity of the monastic tradition.
6. Monasteries may receive visitors all year round, except during the Advent and Lent when visits should be restricted to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of every week. It is the responsibility of the dioceses and churches to warn against visiting places [which term themselves as ‘monasteries’] that are not recognised by the Church as monasteries.
7. Monks inside their monasteries should strictly adhere to, without deviation, monastic rules and the quest for the Eternal Life, for which they gave up the world.
8. Any monk who gets involved in any of the following deeds is liable to questioning and getting stripped of monkhood and priesthood, with official announcement:
a. Appearance on [talking to] the media in any form, for any reason, and through any medium.
b. Involvement in any financial transactions or projects not assigned to him by his monastery.
c. Leaving the monastery without valid justification or prior approval by the abbot.
9. Monks are not allowed to attend wedding or funeral services except through approval or assignment by the abbot; two monks [from a single monastery] at most might be allowed to attend.
10. Monks are given a one-month period during which they should close or deactivate any social media pages or accounts, and voluntarily relinquish such behaviour and activity as unworthy of monastic life, lest the Church takes necessary action against them.
11. The Coptic congregation is asked to refrain from any financial transaction or participation in projects with any monk or nun, also to refrain from giving donations, in money or in kind, except through abbots or their representatives.
12. It is the responsibility of the abbot and his aides to activate and empower the guidelines cited in the Guide to Monkhood and Monastic Life Management issued by the Holy Synod in June 2013.
His Holiness the Pope has ratified these decrees in his capacity as supreme leader of Coptic Orthodox Monasteries.
Blessings be upon those who obey.
1 August 2018
Anba Raphael, General Bishop of Downtown Cairo Churches, was the first to directly respond to the Holy Synod’s decisions, by closing down his social media accounts. On his Facebook page he wrote a final message: “As a Coptic Orthodox monk, I will close down this page and any other accounts I have. I will interact with the congregation through the telephone and secretariat. As for the daily verse, it may be reached through Orthodoxy Application. May the Lord be with you, and preserve the Church in peace.”
2 August 2018