Pope Shenouda III (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt’s Pope Shenouda III has ordered a census of the country’s entire Christian population to be conducted through committees accountable to the Church.
Information forms will be distributed and collected by dioceses across the country and submitted to provincial bishoprics. Results will then be compiled and submitted directly to the Pope.
The Church’s census will for the first time include all the Christian denominations in Egypt, not just the Coptic Orthodox, which constitutes the largest Christian denomination in Egypt.
It will also be the first in post-revolution Egypt. Prior to the uprising, there were significant differences between government estimates of the Coptic population and those of the Church.
An unofficial census, conducted by a number of Christian organisations in cooperation with the Church, published figures on Sunday showing the entire Christian population of Egypt neared 17 million, around 20 per cent of the population.
The latest government estimates of the Egyptian Christian population stated they made up around 4 per cent (around 3.3 million) of the total population of around 83 million. This figure was refuted by Pope Shenouda III in 2008, who said the Coptic Orthodox population on its own made up around 12 million.
In 2009, a US report stated that religious minorities in Egypt made up around 5% of the total population. The report was accepted by the Vatican but rejected by the Egyptian Church.