The Coptic congregation—and all Egypt, for that matter—can look forward to the date 18 November which has been decided upon by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church for the
The Coptic congregation—and all Egypt, for that matter—can look forward to the date 18 November which has been decided upon by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church for the enthronement of the new pope. Next Monday 29 October should see the election of three from among the five candidates nominated for the papacy; details regarding the polling map and final arrangements for the elections are listed on http://www.wataninet.com/watani_Article_Details.aspx?A=32497. The names of the three will then be placed on the altar during Holy Mass on Sunday 4 November for a draw that will determine the name of the new pope.
At one point the Holy Synod had said it would leave the date of the enthronement to be decided by the new pope but, since the date has to be earlier than Advent which begins on 25 November; this leaves only two Sundays in the interim between the altar draw and the enthronement. The date 11 November would have been too soon for the necessary preparations. Some proposed 14 November, the date of the enthronment of the late Pope Shenouda III, as an auspicious day for the enthronement of the new pope, but it was not a Sunday, so the Holy Synod decided to go for the following Sunday, 18 November.
Profiles of the five candidates for the papacy are listed on
Anba Pola, Bishop of Tanta and the spokesman for the Holy Synod has interviewed all five candidates, with the purpose of familiarising the public with them. Anba Pola was keen to explain that this was no electoral camapaigning, since the papacy is more a spiritual and pastoral service than a post that is open to competition.
None of the monks or the bishops who are standing for the elections, Anba Pola said, had coveted the post; they had all been nominated for it by others.
Anba Pola described Fr Raphail Ava Mina, famous for having been the faithful disciple of the modern-day saint Pope Kyrillos VI (cf 1959 – 1971), and took many blessings after him, as a “cumulation of blessings”.
Fr Raphail said he had been greatly influenced by his Sunday School teachers, and hence focused on the great influence of Sunday School teachers on children and adolescents. “Yet, today,” he said, “if you ask someone who his spiritual advisor is, the answer always points to some priest or monk; very rarely does the Sunday School teacher figure here, even though that teacher spends more time and is engaged more with the young person than the priest or monk.” Fr Raphail said it was important to go back to the pivotal role of Sunday Schools in the spiritual upbringing of our children, and to prepare Sunday School techers for that purpose.
Fr Raphail reminded that Pope Kyrillos was not one to hold all Church responsibilities within his grip, he used to delegate many responsibilities to others, a very wise policy which should be emulated, he said.
Another candidate for the papal seat is Anba Tawodros, Bishop-General of Beheira, who talked in length to Anba Pola about his work with the youth. He said that, especially after the 25 January Revolution, listening to the young and interacting with them on an intelligent basis is of vital importance. “Dialogue with youth can no longer be handled from a social perspective of defending a fait accompli; we should strive to come up with new convincing means of dialogue,” said Anba Tawodros.
From time immemorial, Anba Tawodros said, Egyptians of all religions have coexisted and intermingled, and we should work to preserve this. “Sadly,” he said, “we have lived a phase where our children refrained from dealing with the others outside the church. Coptic youth no longer integrated in their communities since the various activities were offered to them in their churches.”
“Through schools and the media, we should work to teach our children to integrate in the community and intermingle with the ‘other’,” said Anba Tawodros.
Anba Raphail, Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo was nominated by no less than Anba Mikhail, Archbishop of Assiut and the eldest archbishop in the Coptic Orthodox Church, through a special letter to the nominations committee.
In his talk with Anba Pola, Anba Raphail said that Church has to be perpetually modernising and innovating. Through the Youth Bishopric, open dialogue with the youth has to go on continually, with the aim of discovering their needs and what additions the Church should offer. Church volunteer workers should be taught to go down to the cafes and underprivileged areas and extend the Church’s hands to the youth there, offering them gentle spiritual doses. “We no longer need volunteer workers to serve regular churchgoers, but need them to help those who are far from the Church,” he said.
From there, he said, the Church needs to move to the Coptic youth in the Diaspora who are open to Western concepts of atheism.
Anba Pola asked Anba Raphail whether the Church administration structure can cater for its current horizontal expansion, to which Anba Raphail answered, “of course not”. He said that the Church should include various expert administrations to manage its activities; these, he said, do not have to be necessarily formed from members of the clergy. “The Church needs to benefit from the experts,” he said. He gave an example of the Rites Commission over which he presides, and said it does not have to depend solely on the bishops and priests, but should include deacons and laymen.
The kind hearted
Father Pachomeus al-Suriani served for a long time in Italy, and was asked by Anba Pola what he had learned from being so close to the Vatican. Fr Pachomeus said that the thing that most drew his attention in the Vatican as an administration was the high precision and commitment with which it was run. “The Coptic Church,” he said, “needs to be inspired by this culture of tranquillity and order. We can train our children to adopt this culture since their very early days through Sunday schools,” he said. The Vatican’s organisational structure primarily relies on seculars and not just on members of the clergy alone, he said.
Father Seraphim al-Suriani told Anba Pola that, as a child, he went with my family to visit Pope Kyrillos VI. “Pope Kyrillos looked at me and my twin brother and told my father, ‘we’ll take one of your boys, and leave you the other’.” He then talked of his later service with Anba Mata’os, abbot of al-Surian monastery; and Anba Serapion of Los Angeles; and said both had well-organised, traquil minds.
Fr Seraphim has had a substantial service with the Coptic congregation in the US.
He said that now, after the 25 January Revolution we must learn to patiently listen to the youth and discuss with them. “We can no longer expect themto be submissive children who do not argue,” he said.
He said that some 40 years ago, the Church extended her hands to the Copts of the Diaspora, to cater to the the needs of Coptic families there. The second and third generations of the Copts of the Diaspora, he said, need even more care to remain in the Church. The advanced technology there helpa a lot in keeping lines of communication open. “yet, we need special service for university youth in the US, since the young usually remain attached to the Church until they go to university when they start to drift away.”
Commenting on the future of the Church Fr Seraphim said that the Church has always been based on love and acceptance of the other. “Love never fails,” he concluded.
23 October 2012