A delegation of five priests from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church cast their votes for a new Coptic Orthodox Pope on Monday noon.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is allowed to dispatch five representatives to vote in the Coptic papal election, in line with 1957 Coptic Church bylaws stating that the Ethiopian Church – which formally separated from Egypt's Coptic Church in 1959 – should have a say in the selection of the Coptic patriarch.
"The Ethiopian Church has a right to participate in the election of the pope in Egypt, just like the Egyptian Church has a right to participate in the election of the Ethiopian pope," Coptic Church spokesman Bishop Paula told Ahram Online.
Bishop Gabriel Milad Khalil of Austria and Zurich has arrived in Cairo to cast his vote. Bishop Botrous Milad Ayoub Gerges of New York has also flown in to take part.
Coptic voters have begun the process of electing a Coptic Orthodox Pope to succeed the late Pope Shenouda III on Monday morning at the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo.
The voters will choose three finalists out of five candidates.
These three will go on to run in the final phase of the electoral process: the 'alter lottery' on 4 November, in which a blindfolded child will randomly select the name of the church's next pope.
A celebratory mood engulfed the church as posters of the five candidates adorned the walls.
Officials have set up food and refreshment stands to welcome the voters.
The Cathedral's internal radio broadcasted lectures by the late Pope Shenouda III as well as segments introducing each of the five candidates and their backgrounds.
The nominees are:
1. Father Pachomios El-Syrian: A monk at the El-Syrian Monastery (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) in Wadi Natrun, a valley situated in Egypt's Nitrian Desert. Born in Aswan, Upper Egypt, in 1963, he holds a joint degree in science and education. Father Pachomios currently resides in Italy.
2. Bishop Raphael: Auxiliary bishop of central Cairo and the capital's Heliopolis district, a former aide to the late Pope Shenouda III and a member of the Coptic Church's Holy Synod. Born in Cairo in 1954 and a graduate of Ain Shams University's medical faculty, Raphael was ordained bishop in June 1997.
3. Father Raphael Ava Mina: A monk at St Mina Monastery (Mar Mina), located in the Western Desert near the coastal town of Alexandria. Born in Cairo in 1942, Raphael has a law degree from Ain Shams University.
4. Father Seraphim El-Syrian: Also a monk at the El-Syrian Monastery. Born in 1959 in Cairo, Seraphim holds a science degree from Ain Shams University. He lives in the US.
5. Bishop Tawadros: Auxiliary bishop for the northern Beheira governorate, and auxiliary to Bishop Pachomios (who is currently serving as acting pope). A member of the Holy Synod, the Coptic Church's highest authority, Tawadros was born in 1952 and studied pharmaceutical sciences at Alexandria University. He was ordained bishop in 1997.
About 2,406 electors from the Coptic community have been chosen by the church to cast their ballots in the papal electoral process. The electors are 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. Additionally, there are five electors from the Ethiopian Church.
The vote will be held from 9am to 5pm.
Eight ballot boxes have been laid out this morning to receive the votes. Two of them will be reserved for electors that live abroad. These can either come to Egypt to cast their ballots themselves or assign Egypt-based proxies to do it for them by obtaining legal authorization from their respective embassies.
The winner will become the 118th Coptic Pope of Egypt and will replace Pope Shenouda III who passed away in March.
The last papal elections were held in 1971.