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New bylaws approved for the election of the Coptic Orthodox patriarchs

Victor Salama

25 Feb 2014 2:28 pm

In an extraordinary session held on Thursday 20 February 2014, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church headed by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II approved the new bylaw for the election of the pope, Anba Raphail, Secretary of the Holy Synod told ++Watani++ that, in a session which lasted for seven-and-a-half hours,

In an extraordinary session held on Thursday 20 February 2014, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church headed by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II approved the new bylaw for the election of the pope, Anba Raphail, Secretary of the Holy Synod told ++Watani++ that, in a session which lasted for seven-and-a-half hours, each of the bylaw’s 36 articles was put to the vote, and the bylaw was approved by majority. The articles were voted electronically, a first in the history of the Coptic Church. The syntax of the articles of the bylaw is being revised before sending it to President Adly Mansour for endorsement, in accordance with the Constitution.
The bylaw had undergone a long procedure of drafting; each consecutive draft was sent to the bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church for comments. The comments were discussed in an exceptional Holy Synod session last December 2013, following which the bylaw was approved in the final session last Thursday.
The issuing of the bylaw of the election for the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, a year and three months after Pope Tawadros II was enthroned, is seen by the Coptic community as a significant achievement. Heated controversy had arisen among the Copts during the last few years on the need to change the bylaw which had been enacted as far back as 1957, so as to accommodate the changing conditions in the Church and increase in the number of the congregation. Pope Shenouda III, the charismatic previous patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church who passed away in March 2012 and who had been patriarch for 40 years, had rejected the idea of changing the bylaw before he died for fear of suspicions that the new bylaw may have been drafted to favour a specific candidate for the papacy. Once he passed away, the acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus and the Holy Synod had agreed to hold the Papal elections according to the 1957 bylaw so as to avoid conflict, provided that measures would be taken to amend it directly after the election of the new pope.
Anba Raphail told ++Watani++ that the most important changes in the new bylaw include broadening the electoral base to accommodate the growing congregation; banning the nomination of any candidate who had been previously nominated for the papacy; and narrowly restricting the nomination of parish bishops for the post of patriarch. He said these latter may only be nominated in exceptional cases, under very strict conditions, and for reasons to be determined by the Holy Synod according to the laws of the Church.


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