Anba Tawadros II Is the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark
Today should see the enthronement of the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark at St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo.
The enthronement ritual is among the most moving of the Church rituals, and is moreover one that may not occur more than once or twice in a lifetime. The enthronement ceremony of Pope Tawadros II today should be broadcast live on TV, which gives those who cannot attend the opportunity to follow closely every detail.
The enthronement is the ceremony of inauguration, involving the first formal seating of the patriarch on the throne. The throne on which Pope Tawadros II is seated today is the seat of St Mark the Apostle who brought Christianity into Egypt during the first century. The seat is a symbol of the authority to teach and to care for the Church: the flock bought by the Lord with His own blood (Acts 20: 28).
The ritual begins once the Synaxarium is read during Holy Mass. The acting patriarch, the bishops, the priests and the deacons all leave the church; the head deacon goes out last and closes the door.
The bishops bring in the elected patriarch, in a grand procession, to the main door of the church. There he is handed the key of the church by the head deacon. In case of today’s ceremony, Anba Tawadros II will be handed a big, ornamented, ceremonial key symbolic of the new responsibility he is to shoulder, that of the Church.
The elected pope opens the door as he says: “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them and I will praise the Lord.” (Psalm 118: 19).
Once the door is opened, the church bells ring joyfully to welcome the new pope who enters in a procession while the deacons chant praises of joy. At the door of the sanctuary he kneels and prays.
The oldest bishop present says the prayer of thanksgiving, incense is raised, and several prayers and pleas are said asking the Lord to care for his Church and its new patriarch. In the meantime, the bishop announces: “We name you, Tawadros II: pope, patriarch, master, and head of the bishops of the See of St Mark.” He makes the Sign of the Cross three times over the new patriarch who, from this moment on, is the head of the Church.
The new patriarch is then vested in the first item of the clerical vestments, the white tunia (sticharion), and is made to sit on a small chair in the middle in front of the sanctuary. The bishops sit around him while the deacons chant the doxology of St Mark.
The head bishop then reads the canon of the investiture of the new patriarch, signed by the members of the Holy Synod. He hands it over to the new pope, saying: “Receive the investiture canon of the grand headship of the clergy for many years to come, filled with peace, honour, and glory.” A praise is chanted for the patriarch.
The head bishop then places the four gospels on the head of the new pope as the deacons chant “Axios”, literally “Worthy”. As the bishops make the triple Sign of the Cross, the pastoral staff and the cross are placed upon the altar.
The bishops vest the new pope in the vestments of the head of the clergy, piece by piece, while the vesting prayers are said. When they finally place the crown on his head, they lead him up to the altar from where he is to receive the pastoral staff and the cross. The head bishop tells him: “Come forward and receive the pastor’s staff from the hand of the Great Pastor of pastors Jesus Christ, to care for his people and nurture them with the living Word. He has entrusted you with their souls, and of you will He require their blood.”
“I am the good shepherd”
The pope is then led to be seated on the throne of St Mark. He mounts the three steps to the throne and sits, and is handed the gospel of St Mark. He holds it and kisses it in veneration, and all the bishops approach and kiss the gospel in his hand.
The pope stands up and reads the verses 23, 24 and 28 of Palm 73: “You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. As for me, it is good to be close to the Lord. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.” He then reads from Chapter 10 of the gospel of St John the reading of the good shepherd. When he says: “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” the deacons chant “Axios”.
Holy Mass then proceeds as usual. Once it is completed and the new pope has partaken of the holy sacraments, he takes off his liturgical vestments and, accompanied by the bishops, goes down into the crypt to visit the shrine of St Mark.
The Church celebrates its new pope for three days, during which the pope celebrates Mass daily. He should then spend the first year of his papacy fasting, except for the seven grand feast days of the Master (The Annunciation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, Palm Sunday, the Resurrection; the Ascension, and the Pentecost).
18 November 2012
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