The Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is one of the most venerable institutions in Egypt and is continuing its dynamic activities in a new era. During this period around Orthodox Easter, celebrated this year during the holy month of Ramadan, it is useful to remember the patriarchate’s historical trajectory, social offerings, and centuries-old ties to Egyptian history and culture.
Located in the beautiful historical city of Alexandria, the patriarchate has a history of two thousand years in Egypt and Africa and is one of the five historical patriarchates of Christianity. In terms of the ecclesiastical status of the Orthodox Patriarchates, it is second in the hierarchy after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In the 19th century, the Patriarchate entered a new era, having reorganised and revived the ancient synodical system and thus re-establishing its geographical jurisdiction. Today, the patriarchate is active not only in the national territory of Egypt, but also throughout the continent of Africa, which lies under its spiritual jurisdiction.
The church authorities appeal to every African in a true spirit of solidarity and international cooperation with respect to the distinct cultural traditions of the African peoples. The patriarchate has worked tirelessly in humanitarian work in Egypt and Africa, assisting many segments of society regardless of religious belief or nationality.
Over the last decade, Egypt under the prudent leadership of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has created the kind of internal stability and order that is necessary for the peaceful development of every doctrine in modern society. Egypt is the natural leader not only of the Arab world, but also of Africa, and the patriarchate is a valuable institution in this regard. His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, has consistently spoken of the valuable support he has received from President Al-Sisi and the excellent climate of modern Egypt.
The patriarchate is also an important intermediary agent between Egypt and Greece, two countries that enjoy excellent relations and have established fruitful cooperation in many fields. In April, Theodoros II officially visited Athens, where he met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Egypt’s Greek and Cypriot communities, with their leaders and institutions, are very active, contributing to the country’s new dynamism. The patriarchate can function as an additional cultural institution ensuring cooperation between Egypt and Greece.
The past is a fundamental aspect of current national identity. Egypt is a nation that has a rich and multifaceted historical identity that includes all historical periods. Greece is the inheritor of ancient Greek culture and the Orthodox Christian tradition. The patriarchate is a juncture between the traditions of these two states. The unity of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Africa under the leadership of the patriarchate is fundamental for the preservation of its historical role and social mission. Its integrity and the maintenance of its influence throughout Africa without any external interference is completely in line with the foreign policy priorities of Egypt.
As Egypt and the rest of the world continue to face many unprecedented challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and international geopolitical disorders, the Alexandria Patriarchate can offer both meaningful ways of cooperation across borders and valuable social work that stems from its rich history and centuries-long tradition in Egypt.
* The writer is a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.