Bishop Epiphanius, the head of Abu Makar (Saint Macarius the Great) (Photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church Official FB page)
A bishop who was found dead at the monastery he headed in northern Egypt was not killed as an act of terrorism, a monk at the monastery has said.
Bishop Epiphanius was found dead on Sunday, in what the Coptic Orthodox Church described as “strange circumstances.”
Father Shenouda, a monk at Anba Makar monastery in Wadi El-Natroun, told Coptic television channel CTV on Monday that they had "ruled out" the possibility that the incident was an act of terrorism.
The church announced on Sunday that the authorities would carry out an official investigation.
"All scenarios are possible; as soon as the authorities learned about the incident around 60 officials came to the monastery and around 12 slept over inside the monastery," Shenouda said.
Father Shenouda said that the late bishop would usually attend midnight prayers before mass, but that someone must have waited for him from a distance of 20 metres away, and then hit him on the head.
He said that Epiphanius had died as soon as he was hit.
"We don’t know who the perpetrator is but we are all praying for him," he added.
According to the monk, there isn’t a full system of camera surveillance inside the monastery, but there are some CCTV cameras located in different areas.
"We are living very hard days in the monastery. This kind of incident has never happened in the history of the church...for a bishop to die in such a harsh way," said the monk.
He added that the bishop’s body is currently in Damanhour, the capital of Beheira governorate, where the monastery is located, and will be returned to the monastery on Tuesday.
"We live here in peace, simplicity and silence and we have never witnessed such an incident in our Coptic church. Our beloved father is loved by everyone and we will truly miss him," he added.
No official statements have yet been issued by the Egyptian authorities on the bishop’s death.
Anba Makar monastery is located about 90km northwest of Cairo.
It was founded in approximately 360 AD by Saint Macarius (Anba Makar), and has been continuously inhabited since the fourth century.
From 1969 to his death in 2006 the monastery was headed by Father Matta El-Maskeen, a renowned monk and theologian who was known for his liberal teachings. The monastery remains associated with his followers.