The Next Coptic Pope (continued)

The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church faces some difficult decisions as it guides the Church through this transitional period.

The list of seventeen candidates for the upcoming papal election has been released. These will be whittled down to about seven candidates, which a large college of voters will then vote on to produce the final three candidates whose names will go into the box on the altar. The candidates at present are:

Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta

Anba Youannes

Anba Rophael

Anba Bevnotious of Samalout

Anba Boutros

Anba Tawadros of El-Bahaira

Anba Kirollos of Milan

Abouna Rafael Avva Mina

Abouna Maximos El-Antony

Abouna Shenouda Avva Bishoy

Abouna Pakhomous El-Souriani

Abouna Daniel El-Souriani

Abouna Anastasi El-Samuely

Abouna Bishoy Avva Paula

Abouna Sawaries Avva Paula

Abouna Seraphim El-Souriani

Abouna Pigol Avva Bishoy

In response, HG Bishop Serapion and the clergy of the Diocese of Los Angeles have issued a strongly worded rejection of allowing diocesan bishops to stand for the papacy. Their reasons are basically that it is a) against the canons of the Church, and b) the only three times we have had Coptic Popes who were diocesan bishops, all in the twentieth century, their tenure was plagued with serious troubles. The full text is worth reading – you can find it here.

If you are wondering where I stand on the issue, I would happily sign Bishop Serapion’s statement, and hope that our clergy and congregation here in Sydney who hold the same view will also make their voices heard. This has absolutely nothing to do with who the actual candidates are, but everything to do with preserving a rare and uniquely effective tradition that has protected our Church from the ravages of personal ambition for most of the past two thousand years.

In the end, we pray for God to choose for us a good shepherd after His own heart, but we must also do our bit and speak up for all that is noble and good in our ancient tradition.

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10 Replies to “The Next Coptic Pope (continued)”

  1. Love it abouna, Im in 100% support of your recommendation. besides, i thought a diocesan bishop is married to his diocese. therefore to be made available for candidature for the position of patriarch, they will have to go through a divorce from their diocese??? Will the orthodox church then develop a new cannon for the release of a bishop from the marriage of his diocese, with processions and a ceremony and a liturgy??? This is not logical. with all my due love and respect, some of the names listed for candidature are too old and have had their time in leadership and should make way for younger leadership skills.however at the end of the day the Lord is the one who will choose. God bless

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  2. I think I voiced the same objection previously on here; that a diocesan (or even monastery) bishop should not be eligible for the papal candidature.

    I think the problem is our view of the papacy and the Pope has changed to be similar to the Catholic view of the Pope of Rome; that he is separate from the bishops, that he is the ‘head’ of the Church.

    The Orthodox view of the Patriarch is not the case. The Pope of Alexandria is by virture Bishop of the Alexandrian diocese (and now also Cairo), just like any other diocesan bishop. He is therefore only the head of the Church in Alexandria and Cairo, as much as our bishop is the head of the church in our city. Therefore technically speaking the Patriarch has no jurisdiction in a diocese with an enthroned bishop. He is given jurisdiction by honour.

    That is why there is a synod of all bishops which decide the affairs of the church. Each diocese, including that of Alexandria, are equally part of the Coptic Church and are equally responsible for it. It is not the Patriarch alone that decides on church affairs. The Church of Rome on the other hand no longer has a functional synod, its Pope alone has infallible authority over church affairs. It seems we are slowly leaning toward this line of thinking, that the church is the Pope alone, not the synod of bishops as a whole.

    The Orthodox Church does not function this way. The Patriarch is given a rank of primacy among the bishops only because he is the bishop of the great city on the ancient throne. He is therefore called Archbishop, Pope and Patriarch.

    I therefore believe that a bishop should not be dethroned and rethroned from one diocese to another.

    Of the names mentioned above I am only familiar with two; Metropolitan Bishoy and Bishop Youannes. I am a fan of both these individuals. I understand that Metropolitan Bishoy is a diocesan and monastery Metropolitan and therefore should not be eligible, Bishop Youannes I believe is the Bishop of Public, Ecumenical and Social Services and was also part of the papal secretariet. He is not a diocesan bishop, he is given the rank of bishop to formalise his role, much like parliament has portfolios run by ministers.

    Our Church needs someone like both these men. Someone conservative like Metropolitan Bishoy but also someone charismatic and young like Bishop Youannes. I do not know any of the other names, there may well be one of them who is suitable.

    But if I had a vote it would most likely go to Bishop Youannes.

    That being said; may God choose a suitable shepherd.

    Watch this space….

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  3. Further reading on traditions and procedures for electing Coptic patriarchs at:

    [1] Saad Michael Saad and Nardine Miranda Saad, “Electing Coptic Patriarchs: A Diversity of Traditions,” Bulletin of St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society (Los Angeles), vol. 6, pp. 20-32, 2000: http://www.stshenouda.com/academicpgm/bl6_saadfinals.pdf.

    [2] Mounir Shoucri, “Patriarchal Election,” The Coptic Encyclopedia, Aziz Atiya, ed., (New York: Macmillan, 1991) pp. 1911-2. Now available at the Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia:
    http://cdm15831.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/cce/id/1561 .

    [3] Otto F.A. Meinardus, Christian Egypt: Faith and Life. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1970, pp. 90-141.

    [4] M. Guirguis and N. van Doorn-Harder, The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership from the Ottoman Period to the Present, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2011, pp. 111-127.

    [5] Saad Michael Saad, (in Arabic) “التقاليد القبطية في انتخاب بابا الإسكندرية,” Watani, 4 November 2001
    http://www.stshenouda.com/AcademicPGM/electing-popes-Saad-Watani-arabic-4Nov2011s.pdf

    [6] “Statute on the Nomination and Election of Patriarch for Coptic Orthodox Christians” (complete text): http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2012/week-13/31-text-statute-patriarch-election

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  4. So totally agree with Fr Ant’s views…I was REAL SHOCKED read the list of candidates and my instant thoughts were this is real strange, only general bishops and monks are meant to be ordained to potential papacy. May the LORD GUIDE AND PROTECT our Church into the forthcoming increasingly turbulent years where we are in SO MUCH NEED of strength leading our Church to a harbor of safety.

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  5. The Statement of HE Metropolitan Seraphim (British Orthodox):
    http://britishorthodox.org/3414/british-orthodox-synod-issues-statement-regarding-the-papal-election/

    British Orthodox Synod issues Statement regarding the Papal Election

    Posted on: Thursday, 31st May, 2012

    A Statement from the Clergy Synod of the Diocese of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate on the selection of the Patriarch of Alexandria.

    At the Clergy Synod of the British Orthodox Church held on Wednesday 30th May 2012, at the Church Secretariat in London, under the presidency of His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, the members of the Synod considered with great care and attention the statement issued by His Grace Bishop Serapion, of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii, together with his Clergy Synod, meeting on Thursday 3rd May and Tuesday 8th May, 2012 and concerning the selection of diocesan bishops as candidates for election as the Patriarch of Alexandria.

    The Synod, finding itself in complete agreement with the explanation of the canons and traditions of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate found in the statement issued by the Diocese of Los Angeles, wishes to express its own view that the canons and traditions lead us to understand that the translation of a diocesan bishop to the Patriarchate of Alexandria should be avoided outside of the most serious circumstances, and that the present election does not represent such a serious circumstance.

    It is therefore our humble and respectful opinion that a diocesan bishop should not be considered for election to the Patriarchate of Alexandria at this time.

    We pray for the peace of the Church and that the Lord may repose the soul of our beloved father, the thrice-blessed Pope Abba Shenouda III, with his saints, and to appoint for us a shepherd who will attend to His people in purity and righteousness.

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  6. If a bishop is married to his diocese, then why has Bishop Daniel been separated from his Sydney diocese for so long? Why are we so concerned with sticking to the canons of the church in the instance of choosing a new pope, but have no problem with the bishop of our diocese being estranged from his bride? It is my humble opinion that the clergy of Sydney deal with the issue of their own bishop and how to resolve the issues there, before they even think about putting together a statement about the election of the new pope. I pray for the unity of our church and our diocese. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

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  7. ^ Good point Jacob!

    I’ve been doing a bit of reading into this, while I still object to the elevation of a diocesan bishop to the papacy, it more has to do with the fact that doing so will curb papal ambitions within the church’s heirarchy. If a diocesan bishop is transfered off the throne he was originally ordained for it will eventually set a precedent, and in future we will see a majority of those elected being diocesan bishops. This will create ambitions for the papal post within the synod, which will eventually breed corruption.

    While I believe adherence to the church’s ancient canons is very important, I am much less concerned about this point of contention because I believe that the church can move with the times if it has to, and having a diocesan bishop elevated to the papacy if the circumstance allows will not in any way diminish the position for that bishop or the church. Further, I am sure there are things we currently practice which are not consistent with these canons, the ordination of ‘General’ Bishops who are not married to diocese being a classic example.

    Interestingly, the eligibility for the papacy within the Coptic Church and the personalities elected has never really been consistent. It has not always been a monk, some were not even clergymen.

    Up until Alexanda I it was common to ordain the Patriarch from among married priests. Demetrius I was a married layman, Peter I a priest. Athanasius I was a deacon chosen by his predecessor, Timothy II Aelurus was a monk. Dionysius I was a priest who was originally a pagan convert, Abraam I a layman who was Syrian by origin, and our beloved Shenouda III a General Bishop.

    So within the Coptic Church the origin of the man ordained to the papacy was never really important, so I don’t see the ordination of a diocesan bishop as such a taboo. The reason it shouldn’t be practiced, particularly in today’s environment and political atmosphere is because in today’s church structure it will create ambition and aspirations for the post among the bishop, and that is something I am sure we all do not want.

    I know that today it is unlikely that a layman, a priest or even a non-Egyptian would become Patriach, and I have no issue with this. Today’s practice is to ordain bishops from among the monks. The ordination of the Patriarch should therefore be no different.

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  8. An excellent collection of documents both new and old on this topic:

    http://canon15.ca/

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  9. Hi Father,
    Not allowing a diocesan bishop to stand for the papacy seems to have a logical case, however i do not see how if a diocesan bishop was to became patriarch the canon would be broken. For example, if a diocesan bishop of area C was to become pope, he would be archbishop of areas A to Z. He would be expanding his diocese and not transferring it.
    Also as i came upon a verse in relation to this matter. 1Tim3:1 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work”. Noting that the term ‘pope’/’papa’ was only introduced between 232–248 AD and literaly means archbishop, i see no opposition by st Paul regarding this matter. In reading this verse it seem that if st Paul was living in today’s world he wouldn’t even oppose or rebuke those of the elected 17 who desire to became archbishop.
    I also agree it is difficult to accept the loss of pope Sheouda III in these turbulent times in the church, however one verse gives me great comfort “all things work together for good to them that love God”

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  10. Dear Goliath

    The Archbishop of Alexandria, our Patriarch, is NOT the bishop of any other sees, and he has very restricted privileges in interfering with the exercise of the jurisdiction of any diocesan bishop.

    The diocesan bishop is to do nothing without his Metropolitan, but the Metropolitan can do nothing without the consent and approval of his fellow bishops.

    The Patriarch is essentially only a bishop. He is the presiding bishop in the Synod, but he has no particular jurisdiction over the see of any other bishop. We do not accept the view of the Catholic Papacy.

    Pope Shenouda, may the Lord repose him, was never the bishop of Sydney. And he had no special authority over the diocese of Sydney other than through the Synod of all the bishops of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. Therefore a diocesan bishop, becoming the Patriarch, must cease to be bishop of his see, or become bishop of two sees. He does not become bishop of all the sees.

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