Last Sunday’s ceremony in which the altar draw conducted at St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, resulted in the selection of Anba Tawadros as the Coptic Church’s new
Last Sunday’s ceremony in which the altar draw conducted at St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, resulted in the selection of Anba Tawadros as the Coptic Church’s new pope, was a real festival. It is no exaggeration to say that Egypt and the entire world followed the event closely, admired it, and shared in the joy of the Copts and the Church.
The three names nominated for the papacy were placed in transparent glass balls which were in turn placed in a glass cup that was sealed and placed on the altar. Holy Mass was celebrated in a spirit of full submission to the will of the Lord. Once Mass was completed, everyone held their breaths as the acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus started the procedure for the altar draw. The glass cup was placed on a table for everyone to see as Anba Pachomeus blindfolded the boy who was to draw the name from the cup, guided his little hand to the mouth of the cup, and asked him to pick any of the glass balls inside. He took the ball drawn, opened it, unfolded the paper inside, and held it high as he announced the name of the new pope: his beloved disciple Anba Tawadros. The 118th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church was to be Pope Tawadros II, to succeed the late Pope Shenouda III who passed away last March and who I am certain has been praying for Egypt and the Church ever since.
Joy and jubilation broke out. The news was cause of comfort inside and outside Egypt. Cameras rushed to record the first response of the new pope who had been in retreat in the Western Desert monastery of Anba Bishoi. He appeared tranquil and happy, thankful for the divine selection to a post that, as much as it was sanctimonious, was also one of huge responsibility.
Pride and comfort filled my heart. I was full of thankfulness and respect for the love and wisdom with which Anba Pachomeus guided the Church to a safe shore amid the storming waters it had to brave. He listened in all humbleness and patience to whoever from among the congregation had something to say. He remained faithful to his pledge to preserve the dignity of all who had been nominated for the papacy but did not make it, so that they each went back to their parishes or monasteries undiminished in honour and respect.
I would also like to express my thanks to and appreciation of Anba Pola who was the mastermind behind the precise organisation of the election process in its entirety. The final outcome amazed Egyptians, Muslims and Christians alike, for its transparency and precision, so much so that many expressed a wish that national elections would follow the same example.
Finally, it must be noted that the interest displayed by the State and independent media to cover the events of the papal selection, in all its stages, has been unprecedented. It reflects a spirit of goodwill towards the Copts and their Church and pope. When I made this remark to Muslim colleagues and acquaintances, I was told: “No need for thanks. This is the Egypt we desire and work to preserve.”
There remains for me to speak a gentle word in the ears of the parents of the eight-year-old Bishoi Girgis Mossaad who drew the name of the new pope, and who has since been incessantly interviewed by the media. Bishoi has been an instrument through which all Copts attained a great blessing; he himself was the first to attain this blessing which should remain with him for life. I plead with his parents to take care he is not robbed of his childhood innocence through over-exposure to the media. There will be time enough for him to speak of his experience when he is sufficiently old to escape the harsh public eye. He has a role model in another child, Ayman Shenouda, who more than 40 years ago drew the name of Pope Shenouda III, but only spoke of his experience when he was man enough to do so.
11 November 2012
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