First New Bishops consecrated by Pope Tawadros
On Sunday, 10 March, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, assisted by members of the Holy Synod, elevated seven priests to the episcopate. The chief priority in this first batch of new bishops was the provision of bishops for areas of Coptic population and the re-oganisation of dioceses in Egypt. Father Epiphanius el-Makary was consecrated Bishop-Abbot of the ancient Monastery of St. Makarios in Wadi el-Natr’un, under the name of Bishop Epiphanios. For a number of years this monastery, under its spiritual guide, Father Matthew the Poor, had pursued a rather distinctive form of monasticism, but this appointment of a new Bishop-Abbot marks the final stage of the process of reintegrating it into the Coptic mainstream. Fr Makar el-Baramousy was consecrated as Bishop of 10 Ramadan city (population 450,000+) and its vicinity in Sharqiya Governorate, east of the Delta, under the name Bishop Makar. Father Saleeb el-Samueli was consecrated as Bishop Samuel, Bishop of Tamouh, El-Badrashein, El Hawamdiah (all south of Giza) & affiliate jurisdictions and Father Yulius Ava-Mina was consecrated as a general bishop in Cairo.
When Metropolitan Domadios of Giza (the ancient Memphis), died in September 2011 he had ruled the diocese for some forty-eight years, during which the population had expanded enormously. Although for the latter part of his ministry, Metropolitan Domadios was confined to a wheel chair as the result of a stroke, his diocese not only expanded with a huge church building programme but it was also an outstanding example of both spiritual and charitable activities. It was decided to divide this huge diocese into four smaller smaller dioceses. Fr Yu’annis el-Suriani became Bishop Yuhanna, Bishop of North Giza; Father Zosima el-Antony was consecrated as Bishop Zosima of Etfeeh (Aphroditopolis) & El-Saff. Father Zakaria el-Suriani, was consecrated Bishop of 6 October City and Uossim, and chose to take the name of Bishop Domadios in honour of the late Metropolitan.
Bishop Theodosius, who had been consecrated in 2009 as a General Bishop to assist Metropolitan Domadios, was now appointed as Bishop of Central Giza. Two other long-standing General Bishops were also now appointed as diocesan bishops: Bishop Boutros, head of Aghapy TV, who was originally ordained a chorepiscopos in 1979 and a General Bishop in 1985, serving as an Auxiliary in the diocese of Ismailia 1985-1998, was enthroned as Bishop of Shebin al-Qanater (an area of northern metropolitan Cairo, comprising 36 villages in the Governorate of Qalyubia); and Bishop Daniel, who was consecrated as a General Bishop in 1991 and served as Assistant to the diocese of Gherge 1991-93, and looked after the south Cairo suburbs of Mahdi & Kotsika since 1963, has now become diocesan bishop of the same area.
An important appointment for the lands of the diaspora was the provision of a Bishop for Canada. Bishop Mina, who had been ordained as a General Bishop in 2009, with responsibility for Old Cairo since 2010, was appointed as Bishop of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada.
Pope Tawadros visits the Vatican
It was both historic and significant that the first ecumenical visit of HH Pope Tawadros II should be to the newly installed Pope Francis of Rome. The meeting took place in Rome 9-13 May, exactly 40 years after the meeting of HH Pope Shenouda III with Pope Paul VI, when they signed a Common Christological Declaration and initiated bilateral ecumenical dialogue. In his speech of welcome, Pope Francis said, “Today’s visit strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the Sea of Mark air up to and inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, were borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity.”
Assassination attempt against Bishop Makarios
On 30 September, Bishop Makarios was visiting the town of el-Sario in Abou Qorqas, Minya province, on a pastoral visit to comfort a Coptic family, which had lost its son in the recent sectarian violence, when his car received a hail of bullets from several unidentified attackers. His driver was able to drive to the home of a local church member, where they took refuge. However, the attackers pursued them, surrounded the house and continued shooting for over 90 minutes, causing extensive damage to its windows, doors and walls. The local security service only arrived a further 90 minutes after the shooting had stopped. The head of Minya security told the media that the local Muslim villagers were angry because they thought the Bishop had come to reopen St. Michael’s church, the only church in the village, which has been closed for the past 10 years ago for security reasons.
Minya is one of the most highly populated governorates in Upper Egypt, and the region of Abou Qorqas is situated on the left bank of the Nile. This summer saw considerable sectarian violence and incitement against Copts, in which some 43 citizens had their homes, shops and vehicles looted or destroyed whilst in Minya City the Amir Tadros Church, St. Joseph’s Convent, Abba Moussa Church an d the Assembly of Coptic Schools was burned to the ground,; Mar Mina Church was looted and the Evangelical and Baptist Churches were burned as well as the library of the Jesuit Association, the YMCA, the Soldiers of Christ Coptic Orphanage, St. Joseph’s Convent School and the Holy Bible Press. Two Copts were also burned to death when their tourist boat was set on fire.
Commenting on the attempted assassination, Abba Seraphim expressed concern about the extent of violent threats directed against Copts and supporters of the interim government. He noted that one website, calling itself ‘The Al Magreze Center for Historical Studies” publishes a “Wanted List of the Sharia Court” giving photographs and details of 37 targetted notables, including His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, with a grisly cartoon of General Al-Sisli hanging from a gallows.
Bishop Macarios is a General Bishop, serving as Auxiliary to His Eminence Metropolitan Arsenios of Minya, Abu Qorqas and Beni Hasan.
New Coptic dioceses
On 16 November, HH Pope Tawadros, assisted by members of the Holy Synod in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Cairo, enthroned two former General Bishops in new seats. Bishop David, formerly Patriarchal Exarch in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, was enthroned as diocesan bishop of the new Diocese of New York, New England states and all North East of the United States of America. At the same time Bishop Selwanos, formerly Assistant Bishop of El Mataria, Aiun Shgamns, Ezbet El Nakhl in the Archdiocese of Cairo (Arcadia Ægypti) was enthroned as Bishop and Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Pachomios the Cenobite in Edfu, Upper Egypt. The following day Hegumen Seraphim El-Muharaki, was consecrated as Karas, Patriarchal Vicar for the Diocese of El-Mahalla El-Kubra and Samanoud (Sebennytos), and assistant to the Pope.
Decisions of the Holy Synod
At its meeting in Cairo in November, the Holy Synod passed several resolutions, among which was a new code regulating the work and responsibilities of diocesan bishops. This was the most recent of several resolutions passed during the past year, which included monasticism; the work and service of priests; the foundation and responsibilities of church lay councils.
Official recognition was given to the Monasteries of Anba Matta al-Fakhoury in Esna south of Luxor; of Saint Mark & St Samuel the Confessor in South Africa and the Convent of the Holy Virgin in Mallawi, Minya.
Synodal subcommittees were established for nurturing and offering adequate services for gifted young men and women; furthering Islamic-Christian relations as part of the Synod’s public relations committee; and looking into the beatification of figures nominated for sainthood. The committee in charge of serving the poor had its name changed to include the care of homes and orphanages. Two new commissions were established: one to set the standards of an Orthodox approach in service and education, and another to investigate the issue the monastery at Wadi al-Rayan in Fayoum. It was also decided to publish rites prayers to be said during the fast and feasts of the Virgin Mary.