A picture of Pope Shenouda III is seen during a Sunday mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church led Egypt's Christian minority for 40 years. (Photo: AP)
The highest authority of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod, which is comprised of 120 archbishops, is due to hold a meeting Thursday to discuss the appointment of a new pope.
According to the Coptic Orthodox tradition, candidates for the papacy - whether a bishop, a patriarch, or a priest - must be a monk who is at least 40 years old and has served for over 15 years in the monastic order.
The candidates are nominated by members of the Holy Synod, the Monks Synod, the Melli Council, the dioceses as well as the Coptic Councils in the People's Assembly and the Shura Council.
Each nominee must guarantee the support of at least 12 members of the Holy Synod.
Following an election, the names of the three candidates with the most votes are written on pieces of paper and placed in a box. A child, of no more than nine years of ages, must pick a slip with their eyes closed.
According to Anba Youannis, secretary to the late Pope Shenouda III, the church will also send the name of the acting-pope, Archbishop Anba Pachomeus of Beheira, to Field Marshal Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), following Thursday's Holy Synod meeting. According to Egyptian law, the president of Egypt - in this case the ruling military council - must accredit the Church's choice for both an interim and permanent pope.
In accordance with Coptic election law, Archbishop Anba Pachomeus was appointed as the Church's transitional leader because he is the oldest bishop who was willing to undertake the role.
After Pope Shenouda III passed away on Saturday the eldest bishop, Bishop Mikhail of Assiut, who was consecrated in 1946, declined the position.
Consequently Archbishop Pachomeus, who was consecrated in 1971 and is the second eldest member of the Holy Synod, became acting patriarch until a new pope is elected.
It is expected that the new pope will be elected within two months.