Egyptian Copts welcome new pope at emotional ordination ceremony

Ekram Ibrahim , Sunday 18 Nov 2012

Tawadros II crowned new pope of Coptic Orthodox Church at moving ceremony in Cairo calling for unity among Christians

Pope Tawadros II
Pope Tawadros II receives papal scepter from Bishop Pachomios (Photo: courtesy of Lovers of Bishop Rafael facebook page)

With prayers and blessings in the name of Jesus Christ, spiritual leaders on Sunday anointed Tawadros II as pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church at St. Mark's Cathedral in the heart of Cairo.

The crowd moved between tears and cheers during the ceremony. "Tears of happiness, tears of fear and tears for Pope Shenouda III," Christine Rafiq, a 25-year-old volunteer at the cathedral, told Ahram Online.

Pope Tawadros II, 60, sat quietly as spiritual leaders performed the rituals of his enthronement. He wiped away occasional tears, portraying an image of surrender and gratitude.

"The Lord has answered our prayers and tears. He was loving enough not to keep us waiting for long by making the transition from Pope Shenouda to Pope Tawadros smooth and fast," Diana Rashad, 30, told Ahram Online as she wiped a tear.

The new pope has the right to forgive the sins of all Coptic Christians and his teachings are to be obeyed by his people. "He is to heal souls through the teachings of the Church and understanding of God's heavenly word," one of the Bishops said during the ceremony.

Egyptian Copts have traditionally followed the instructions of their pope but this was broken towards the end of Pope Shenouda's reign when thousands of Copts took part in protests during and after Egypt's revolution, in opposition to the pope's orders.

"The age of following the pope in our political life was brought to an end by Egypt's revolution, the church is just for spiritual affairs," Abram Youssef, 31, told Ahram Online.

However, obedience to the pope was repeated during several speeches at Sunday's ceremony.

A second theme of the ceremony was the call for unity between Christian Churches. "During each liturgy we repeat God's teaching to kiss one another, a kiss of love, love that never fails," a Church official said.

The cathedral was filled with politicians, Copts, Muslims and representatives from around the world. Only invited guests with identification cards were allowed inside the cathedral. The front rows were occupied by political leaders, including Constitution Party leader Mohamed ElBaradei, Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, President Morsi's representative Refaa El-Tahtawi.

The cathedral was hushed, the attendees were attentive and engaged. They shared their happiness and gratitude by standing up to cheer every statement that touched their hearts.

"Everything is organised in an impressive way. When it is arranged according to God's plan, it goes very smoothly," Father Abanoub told Ahram Online.  

Copts say the future will not be easy for Pope Tawadros II, especially because attacks on Copts and churches have increased since the January 25 Revolution. "He has a long road to walk and so do all Egyptians," Father Abanoub added.

The inauguration rituals were limited to religious ones due to the train accident which killed more than fifty schoolchildren in Assiut on Saturday, the church announced.

Newly enthroned, Pope Tawadros II succeeds Pope Shenouda III who passed away in March after leading the Coptic Church for four decades. Pope Tawadros was selected to lead the Church by a blindfolded boy during a ceremony on 4 November.  

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