Last Sunday, the name of the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark was announced to be Anba Tawadros (Theodorus) who has been Bishop-General of Beheira, Matrouh, and Pentapolis.
Anba Tawadros II Is the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark
The glass cup
The ceremony to choose the new pope began at 8:00am at St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, where Holy Mass was to be celebrated. Before it began, the acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus stood on a stage in front of the sanctuary and held out the three names of the nominees, each written in bold on white paper, for the congregation to see. The three names were those of Anba Tawadros; Anba Raphael Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo, and Father Raphael Ava Mina who is a monk at the monastery of Mar-Mina in Maryut, southwest Alexandria.
Each paper was then wrapped and placed in a small transparent plastic ball which was closed with tape and sealed with the seals of Anba Pachomeus and, as a blessing, the late Pope Shenouda III. The three balls were placed in a glass cup which was then closed with a wood-worked cover in the form of a dome, This was tied up with four white ribbons which were sealed with red wax and placed on the southwest corner of the altar.
Holy Mass began right afterward, with Anba Pachomeus presiding over the service. Special prayers were said to ask for Divine intervention in the choice of the new pope.
“Lord, Knower of all hearts…”
Once Mass was over, the sealed glass cup was again brought on a table on the stage. Anba Pachomeus stood onstage, and 12 altar boys aged between five and eight were brought forward; one of them would be the boy who would draw out the name of the future pope. Their names were read out and placed in another glass cup, and the first in the line was called upon by Anba Pachomeus to draw a name from among the twelve. The name drawn was that of Bishoi Mossaad.
Anba Pachomeus read the verses from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles which narrates the incident of the casting of lots conducted by the first Church to choose a replacement for Judas, to be counted among the twelve apostles. The Coptic Orthodox Church considers the altar draw an integral part of the election process because it is rooted among the practices of the first Church, as cited in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, verses 21 – 26. “From among these men who accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the same day that He was taken up from us, one must be ordained to be a witness with us of His Resurrection. And they appointed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said: ‘You, Lord, knower of all hearts, show which one You chose from these two, to take the share of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell, to go to his own place.’ And they gave forth their lots. And the lot fell upon Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
“Your new pope”
Bishoi was then carefully and gently blindfolded by Anba Pachomeus who asked the congregation to observe a minute of silence during which prayers would be raised for the Lord’s intervention to choose the new pope. He then held the scissors, drew the sign of the Cross, and cut the sealed ribbons.
The cup was opened and Bishoi stretched his hand and drew out one glass ball. Anba Pachomeus opened it, unfolded the paper inside, and held it up for everyone to see. The name drawn was that of Anba Tawadros. “Congratulations!” he told the congregation. “Your new
pope is Anba Tawadros II. The first Anba Tawadros was the 45th pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church.”
The congregation cheered wildly and chanted praises.
Anba Tawadros II: “I am undeserving”
The first words uttered by the new Pope Tawadros II, who was informed of his selection as the Coptic Church’s 118th patriarch while at the desert monastery of Anba Bishoi, were: “I thank the Lord for His grace; I am undeserving.”
Anba Tawadros was chosen pope on his birthday.
Once he was told of the news he decided to sing a praise for Anba Bishoi in front of his relics at the monastery, and visited the shrine of the late Pope Shenouda III, also at Anba Bishoi monastery, for blessing.
Congratulations flowed in for the new pope.
Hordes of well-wishers from among the Coptic congregation steadily converged on Anba Bishoi monastery in the Western Desert, where Anba Tawadros had been in retreat.
Prominent among the new pope’s visitors have been the acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus, whose disciple Pope Tawadros II is, and who lovingly insisted that the new pope should sit on the papal seat, despite Pope Tawadros’s reluctance.
Anba Raphael, Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo, who was also a candidate for the papacy, came to Anba Bishoi’s from the nearby Baramous monastery where he had been in retreat, to congratulate Pope Tawadros and pledge to offer him all the support he may need in his new post.
A number of bishops of the 90-member Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church also visited Pope Tawadros to congratulate him.
Several Coptic youth movements sent Pope Tawadros messages of congratulations, in which they cited their demands of the new pope.
In their message cloaked in emotional rhetoric, the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) expressed heartfelt happiness at the choice of the new pope, and said they hoped he would accommodate the youth in the fullness of fatherly love. They demanded that he should start with amending the 1957 Bylaws that govern the selection of Coptic Orthodox patriarchs—a task all candidates for the papacy had already pledged to do. The MYU also asked the new pope to widen the active participation of the laity in all the affairs of the Church, and hoped he would appoint a layman among his secretariat.
The Copts for Egypt (CFE) movement affirmed that the period between the passing away of Pope Shenouda III, who had been patriarch for 41 years, last March and the election of a new pope today was a choppy one, especially given the political and social upheavals Egypt is undergoing. Yet, the CFE said, the transition was managed in full wisdom by acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus. Hany al-Gezeiri, coordinator-general of CFE, was joined by Fady Youssef of the Coalition of Copts for Egypt in affirming that many issues await the new pope’s management which, according to Mr Gezeiri and Mr Youssef, should be based on dialogue with the congregation and a broader participation of the laity.
The Egyptian Centre for Development Studies and Human Rights has, for its part, issued a statement asking the new pope to stay in politics in order to maintain the minimum of rights for Copts, especially in view of what it termed “the monopoly of political Islam”. The statement rebuts the voices calling for the Church to focus solely on religious affairs, leaving politics to the secular stream.
The statement, which was signed by Joseph Malak, head of the centre, justifies asking the future pope to be involved in politics by stating: “The Church during the Mubarak era was forced into a specific political situation. The Mubarak regime considered it representative of the Copts especially in regard to citizenship rights, building churches, sectarian cases, Islamising underage girls, and so on. We believe the current regime is reproducing these same policies, and accordingly it is so difficult that, under the current political circumstances and with the spread of the Islamist tide, the Church should be distancing itself from the political stage.”
The new pope should be enthroned on 18 November.
Reported by Mariam Rifaat, Michael Victor, Nader Shukry and Robeir al-Faris
11 November 2012