Egypt’s Coptic Christians vote for their new Pope

Egypt’s Coptic Christians vote for their new Pope

Egypt’s Coptic Christians vote for their new Pope

One of the five candidates (from L) Father Bakhomius, Father Rafael, Father Seraphim, Bishop Raphael, and Bishop Tawdros, will be the Coptic Pope. REUTERS photo

Egypt’s Coptic Christians voted yesterday for a new leader to succeed Pope Shenuda III, who died in March leaving behind a community anxious about its status under an Islamist-led government.

The death of Shenuda, who headed the church for four decades, set in motion the process to elect a new patriarch to lead the community through the post-revolution era in Egypt, which is marked by increased sectarian tension, Agence France-Presse reported. Five candidates, two bishops and three monks, are vying to become the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle.

Council to vote for Pope

A council of senior clergy, current and former Coptic public officials, MPs, local councilors and journalists will cast a vote for their preferred candidate. The names of the top three vote-getters will then be written on separate pieces of paper and placed in a box on the altar of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. On Nov. 4, a child will be blindfolded and asked to choose one of the papers. The person chosen will be enthroned in a ceremony on Nov. 18.

A total of 2,406 electors were chosen, drawn from among Coptic archbishops, bishops, lay council members and agents of the archdioceses, as well as prominent Coptic laymen including Coptic newspaper editors-in-chief and members of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate. In line with church regulations, all electors are above the age of 35, Egyptian news website Ahram reported.

The candidates are Bishop Rafael, 54, a medical doctor and current assistant bishop for central Cairo; Bishop Tawadros of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, 60; Father Rafael Ava Mina, the oldest of the five candidates at 70; Father Seraphim al-Souriani, 53 and Father Pachomious al-Suriani, 49.

They have been visiting churches and preaching across the country ahead of the voting.

Meanwhile, five Egyptian Coptic Christians were injured Oct. 28 in clashes with Muslims at a church in a village south of Cairo, security sources said. The violence took place as Muslim villagers attempted to block access to the church. Such sectarian clashes are quite frequent in rural areas.