The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a report on the execution on the 37-year-old defrocked monk Wael Saad Tawadros who was charged with the premeditated murder of Anba Epiphanies (1954 – 2018), the Abbot of the Western Desert monastery of St Macarius, in Wadi al-Natroun. Mr Tawadros’s monk hood name had been Ishaia al- Maqari. The murder took place on 29 July 2018. Mr Tawadros was sentenced to death by a criminal court of law in February 2019, and his sentence was approved by Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation in July 2020. He was executed on 9 May 2021.
A Church statement on the ex-monk’s execution and burial was issued on 12 May 2021 by the Coptic Orthodox Bishopric of Beheira.
The recent report was issued by the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and was published in the monthly al-Kiraza magazine No. 19, 20; 21 May 2021. Al-Kiraza is the mouthpiece of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The report read as follows.
“On the execution of the man charged with murder of the Bishop and Abbot of Abu-Maqar (St Macarius) Monastery in Wadi al-Natroun
“The events of that heinous crime took place at dawn on Sunday 29 July 2018 inside the Monastery of Saint Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun. “The police were notified in the early hours of the morning. Extensive investigations started with those resident in the monastery, the monks and workers, and with those who frequented the monastery including lawyers and others who had business being there. The police listened to scores of testimonies, and concluded by referring two suspect monks to the public prosecution.
“The prosecution conducted an inquest, listening to testimonies and investigating evidence. Participating were scores of investigators from the criminal investigation, general investigation, and the National Security apparatuses; also scores of members of the prosecution in Alexandria and Beheira.
“The case was taken to the court which listened to the prosecution and the defence and finally issued death sentences. The sentence was issued unanimously by all three presiding judges. It is a judicial rule that any death sentence can only be issued if it is independently ruled by all presiding judges. The sentence was appealed before the Appeals Court, then before the Court of Cassation where seven senior judges approved the death sentence against Mr Tawadros. [The sentence against his accomplice, the monk Falta’ous al-Maqari, was reduced to life in prison.] The death sentence was then ratified by the President of the Republic, making it final and non-contestable. It must be noted that Mr Tawadros had confessed his crime and acted it out [before the prosecutor]; and that leaked calls and chats he had conducted on social media displayed offensive, indecent language; and exposed his engaging in trade of lands—an activity contrary to monastic tradition—and his rejection of advice and attempts at correction by the Abbot (the murdered victim).
“The trial took some three years, and the death sentence was executed on 9 May 2021.
“Throughout these three years, some on social media raced to cast doubts on all the afore-mentioned investigations and legal proceedings.
They circulated rumours, erroneous information, and falsities to tarnish the image of the [Coptic] Church and its leaders, intentionally or non-intentionally. They wilfully posted deceptive illustrations that harped on people’s sentiments and erroneously cast doubts over the investigations by claiming that specific evidence was overlooked, which was never the case. Even after the execution of Mr Tawadros, these bloggers took the liberty to endow him with such titles as “saint”, “martyr”, “righteous”, and others. It is a fact that the only body entitled to bestow such titles is the Church’s Holy Synod, and that it only does so following meticulous screening.
“We extend our condolences to the family of Mr Tawadros, his mother and brothers, praying for their comfort and peace. Yet when they asked a specific priest and a bishop for words of comfort and their requests were indeed answered, these words were recorded and posted on social media, causing a lot of confusion. This despite the fact that these messages had been intended privately for the family, for the sake of humanely sharing in their pain.
“Posts were also circulated of what was claimed to be visions or dreams or photos of the executed ex-monk. The intention was obviously malicious, but it must be said that all such material was unsubstantiated, and was thus irrelevant. It was easy for rational Copts to discern the falsities as opposed to the truth.
“This was a crime committed by someone who was a monk, but lost his way and allowed Satan to lead him, even unto murder. He was defrocked from monastic order and went the way of the disciple of Christ, who betrayed his Master, sold Him, then took his own life.
“We condemn the sin but do not judge the sinner, because the Lord Jesus Christ is alone the just judge.
“We hope that he [Mr Tawadros] has repented his evil deed. He is now in the hands of God who decides his eternal destiny.
“According to Egypt’s Criminal Law (Article 477), a person sentenced to death is buried without ceremony, following a funeral attended by his family alone. In the case of Mr Tawadros, it was unwise to dress his body in clerical vestments, given that he had been defrocked. In all probability it was frail, inflamed human emotions that were behind such an action which should never have taken place.
“With this explanation, we close the file of this sad matter. We know our monasteries are well, and our monastic movement goes ahead in the fear of the Lord. We should not be upset by what happened [the murder incident], but should lead lives that would be faithful to and accepted by God who we thank for everything, under all conditions, and for all conditions.
“As for those who reverse the truth, spread falsehoods and slander among the faithful, we warn them of the words of the Prophet Isaiah 5:20 ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!’
May you remain under the care of the Lord.”
For full story of the murder of Anba Epiphanius and trial of his killer:
23 May 2021