11/05/2012, 00.00
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Amba Tawadraus II 118th Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria

by André Azzam
Yesterday was his birthday: he is 60 and it is a great organizer of youth education. He wants to reinforce the value of young people, Christians and Muslims, who carried out the "Jasmine revolution" and enhance cooperation between Muslims and Christians for a full integration in society. These days many Muslims have prayed with Christians for a good choice of Patriarch. But it's hard to be a Christian in the country that sees the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Amba Tawadraus (Theodoros), Bishop of Behayra is the new Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of Saint Mark, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and abroad.

His appointment took place yesterday after mass presided by Amba Pakhomios, interim head of the Church, following Shenouda's death last March 17. A child of five years, blindfolded, chose his name from an urn containing three names. The URN was placed on the altar during mass.

The child who extracted the name was selected among twelve "psalmists". The day before he had told her mother that "if I am chosen for the election, I will pick the name of Amba Tawadraus". The child's name is Bishoy, the same name of the monastery to which the new Patriarch belongs. All these strange coincidences have provoked people to declare the choice is "the choice of God". Yesterday many Muslims congratulated their Christian friends for the new leader of the Church, which gives luster to Egypt. In Cairo, the hometown of Amba Tawadraus, the population organized joyous celebrations, not least because just yesterday was the 60th birthday of new Pope of Alexandria.

The new Patriarch is expected to keep his name, becoming Pope Tawadraus II. Tawradaus was the 40th Patriarch; Tawradaus II is the 118th. He was born on 4 November 1952 in Damanhour, South-East of Alessandria, a city on the Rosetta branch of the Nile delta. In 1975 he graduated in pharmacy at the University of Alexandria, followed by a fellowship in Britain with the World Health Organisation. On 20 August 1986 he joined the monastery of Wadi Natroun and became a priest on December 23, 1989. February 15, 1990, he began his pastoral service in his diocese of Behayra.

On June 15, 1997 he became Bishop. The monastery of Amba Bishoy, in his diocese is close to the Syrian monastery where Pope Shenouda had become a monk. Shenouda himself lived in Amba Bishoy, when he was seized in 1981 by then President Anwar Sadat and kept there until 1986.

Amba Tawadraus is known to be a brilliant organizer. He has already shown his skills by structuring a religious education for young people, starting from an early age and would like to spread this method to the Coptic diaspora in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, to enrich the Church with different cultures and prepare the development and progress of the community for the future. He wants to emphasize the profound unity among all members of the Coptic Church in Egypt and abroad and considers it important to give confidence to young people who carried out the revolution of January 15, 2011, that saw collaboration between Christians and Muslims.

He also wants to strengthen the collaboration between Christians and Muslims, important in Egyptian society as well as for better social integration.

In Egypt, everyone holds that the Coptic Church somehow also has a political role, in addition to the religious and spiritual one, having a great influence on its faithful.

It was a great surprise to see many Muslims praying alongside Christians for the selection of a good new Patriarch!

A former presidential candidate, Abdel Moneim Abou al-Foutouh, stated that "the Pope of Alexandria is not only the Pope of the Copts, but of the entire nation". He recalled that Pope Ghobril (1131-1145) asked the Christians to use the Arabic language to read and preach the Gospel, and since then "the Coptic Church has become a church for the nation".

President Morsi has been invited to attend the enthronement ceremony of Tawadraus II, next November 18, in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

In the Coptic Church and among the population there is a great sense of happiness for the new Patriarch, who will face many delicate issues regarding the situation of Christians. Their numbers are also a concern and subject to many interpretations: the press says that Egyptian Christians are 10-12%; many specialized studies from abroad say they are more than 15% of the population; but the Salafis claim that Egypt is 95% Muslim.

It can be safely said that the Egyptian population is about 90 million, of which about 17 million are Christians. As many scholars point out, the number is not the most important thing. What is significant is the fact that the Egyptian Church is very present in the nation and the Egyptian Christians have made a great contribution to the country's destiny, not only fighting in different wars and dying as Patriots, but also working in the "Renaissance (Nahda)" of the Arabic language, literature, media, t arts and crafts. They have also shared in the commitment to the nationalist movement of the 19th century and many of them have become prominent figures, such as Nubar Pacha in the 19th century; the premier Boutros Ghali in the 20th century. Now the situation has become tougher because of the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist extremists







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