At Logos Centre in the Western Desert monastery of Anba Bishoy in Wadi al-Natroun, some 120km northwest Cairo, Pope Tawadros II opened on 22 August the first Logos Forum for the Youth of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt’s dioceses.
The forum, which ran till Monday 30 August 2021, was held under the motto “Enjoy the Roots”. Some 200 young men and women from various dioceses in Egypt participated in the forum.
Members of the Holy Synod, including Anba Pachomius, Metropolitan of Beheira and Pentapolis; Anba Danial, Bishop of Maadi and Secretary of the Holy Synod, and Anba Raphail, Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo Churches, as well as a number of priests participated in the opening ceremony.
The ceremony started with the Pope heading to Logos theatre. Leading him was the traditional procession of white-robed deacons chanting Coptic praises to melodies that stem from those of ancient Egyptian joyful processions. Along the way, young people representing the various regions in Egypt stood in their local national dress to welcome the Pope.
In the theatre, Pope Tawadros said an opening prayer, following which the Egyptian national anthem was played, and the event began.
Pope Tawadros gave a word in which he explained that among its objectives, as its motto suggests, the forum aims at teaching participants to be ambassadors of joy, each within his or her family, church and nation.
The forum also aims to promote “Relishing Roots”, the Pope said, roots taken to denote heritage in all forms.
Pope Tawadros warmly told the young people that youth are the nation and the Church’s most precious asset, and that Egypt is the best place to enjoy roots. The Coptic Orthodox Church, he reminded, is very keen on honouring roots. Roots, he said, are “gifts handed to us by the grace of God”. Egypt was gifted with the Flight of the Holy Family to its land, when the Child Jesus, his Mother Mary, and St Joseph took refuge there as the Gospel says. It was also gifted with Isaiah’s prophecy “Blessed be Egypt my people”, and with St Mark bringing Christianity to its people.
The following morning, 23 August, saw Pope Tawadros preside over Mass at the church of the Transfiguration in Logos Centre, which the young people attended.
Egyptian and Coptic intertwined
In September 2018, a “Back to Roots”, World Youth Week of the Coptic Orthodox Church was held, but this was a gathering of Coptic youth of the Diaspora. Over one week, some 200 second- and third-generation young men and women of the Coptic Diaspora from more than 50 countries across the world were invited to spend one week at the desert monastery of Anba Bishoy in Egypt. Side by side with spiritual activity, the participants, aged 22 to 28, were treated to a cultural and tourist programme that included visits to Egypt’s renowned landmarks and monasteries.
This year’s forum, however, involved Coptic youth inside Egypt. Apart from the standard spiritual activities, the forum focused on intertwined Egyptian and Coptic roots. The programme of visits, meeting and activities, highlighted these roots and modern efforts to honour them.
On the spiritual front, the forum featured sessions on theological and dogma topics, and on apologetics. On the Church front, the young people discussed the Church and its activity; their views were handed to Pope Tawadros who would in turn put them before the Church’s Holy Synod in its upcoming seminar.
Art workshops were held through which the youth trained on handcraft skills, such as shaping various forms of the Coptic cross.
Meeting Youth Minister and TV director
Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr Ashraf Sobhy, joined Pope Tawadros in a meeting with the young Copts at Logos Centre. Stressing that Egypt’s young constitute the country’s backbone, Dr Sobhy talked about his Ministry’s current programmes and future plans to build strong, healthy, well informed youth.
Such programmes, he said, include “Your Bike is Your Health”, interactive courses on diverse topics such as national strategy and security, and programmes such as the youth parliament.
The young people got to meet Peter Mimi, the young Copt who brilliantly directed one of the best viewed 2020 / 2021 TV dramas: al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice) which featured the true, heroic and humanitarian story of Egyptian military and police in their fight against terrorists. The youth had lengthy discussions with Mimi who was then given a souvenir gift by Pope Tawadros.
At Bibliotheca, St Mark’s, military academy
The Logos forum youth were treated to a visit to Alexandria where they headed to one of the city’s proud landmarks: the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA). The Bibliotheca is the modern-day incarnation of the famed historic Greco-Roman-era Library of Alexandria.
The young people were deeply impressed with its splendid façade of glass prisms that reflects the rising “sun of knowledge” in a stunning spectacle. They toured the Bibliotheca’s halls, galleries, and museums including the museum of civilisations and the galleries of the afterlife; and they watched documentaries on various topics. They were led by BA guides who explained to them all the details.
The young people also visited St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, the oldest in Egypt and Africa. They toured the cathedral and visited the shrine of the patriarchs; they also learned about the church’s history and St Mark’s head preserved there. They took a group photo before they left.
On 28 August, the youth visited Nasser Higher Military Academy in Giza and the National Defence College in Cairo. They were warmly received by the directors who explained to them all about the objectives and characteristics of each of the two educational facilities, both of which are bent on building strong, well-rounded Egyptian persons of integrity.
Shields were exchanged between the Logos Forum youth and the Nasser Academy and Defence College; a group photo was taken in front of a panoramic mural at the college.
With Tourism Minister at Abdeen Palace
Upon invitation by Pope Tawadros, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, met Logos youth at Cairo’s Abdeen Palace. Abdeen is a 19th-century palace that belonged to Egypt’s monarchy and acted as the country’s seat of government during monarchical times before 1953 when the country became a republic. Abdeen is known for being among the most sumptuous palaces in the world. It has been newly renovated by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and turned into a museum.
Following a tour of the palace, the Pope thanked Dr Anani for accepting his invitation to meet the Logos youth, and presented him a token gift of gratitude.
Dr Anani for his part thanked Pope Tawadros for his generous invitation, and said it gave him joy to meet those young Egyptians from all over Egypt. He talked about the State’s efforts in restoring and preserving Egypt’s heritage.
The Minister shed light on the government’s work in developing the Trail of the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt, [the biblical flight mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew] saying that three out of the 25 sites on that trail have been renovated and opened to visitors. Other sites, he said, are under renovation. “The Holy Family Trail is a world religious heritage that is the pride of Egypt,” he said.
The young people expressed genuine happiness at meeting Dr Anani who is widely admired for his achievements, engaging character, and profound knowledge. They praised the Ministry’s work in guarding and honouring Egypt’s roots, making special mention of the remarkable Pharaohs’ Golden Parade last April.
Dr Anani concluded by writing a word in the forum’s notebook, and taking a souvenir photo with the youth in front of Abdeen Palace.
Cathedral of Nativity of Christ
It seemed fitting that the last tour taken by Logos youth would be to the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, some 64km east of Cairo.
On Sunday 29 August, the young people were received by Pope Tawadros at the cathedral which has been described as the largest in Egypt and the Middle East, and is built across the street from the al-Fattah al-Aleem Mosque, also the largest in the ME. The land on which the cathedral is built was allocated for a church in the plan of the new capital, and was handed to the Coptic Orthodox Church for that purpose.
The Logos youth listened to a detailed description from Fr Tadros about the Cathedral and the phases of its establishment.
The Cathedral first opened for worship at Midnight Mass on Coptic Christmas Eve, 6 January 2018. Its design emulates Noah’s ark, reflecting a Coptic tradition of the Church as a lifeboat that sails believers to the safe harbour of Eternal Life.
Prayer for Egypt, Nile, Church
At the close of the opening ceremony of the forum, Pope Tawadros had said a prayer which he asked all the young people to join in. The prayer, which wrapped up the outlook of the forum, was mainly for Egypt, the Nile, and the Church. It said:
“Our Good Lord, Lover of Humankind, all humankind
“The Pantocrator of all creatures, all times, and all matters
“You in whom there is no variation or shadow of change
“You are faithful to your promises yesterday, today, and forever
“We thank You, Bright Morning Star and Head of our Church
“King of kings and Lord of lords
“Head and completion of our faith …
“We ask You, O Father of lights, to shine on your Church in your heavenly wisdom
“Secure her foundation, O Rock of our sacred faith
“With your wisdom O Lord, and your goodness, satisfy every living soul with your gladness
“O Water of Life which gives life to our thirsty souls
“We ask You, O Giver of Life, to manage the waters of our Nile
“Because You are the All-Powerful to whom all creatures submit.
“O Prince of Peace, the giver of real peace to those who ask
“Give Egypt peace, and her people tranquillity.
“As You blessed her in the days of old, bless her now too.
“For Yours is the power, the glory, and the blessing for ever more. Amen.”
1 September 2021