Factbox: Egypt's Copts choose Bishop Tawadros as new pope

Sun Nov 4, 2012 8:27am EST
 
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(Reuters) - Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church chose Bishop Tawadros as its new pope on Sunday, in the first election in more than 40 years, after Pope Shenouda died last March.

Here is a look at the church.

* Before the Arab conquest in the 7th century, Christianity was widespread in Egypt and people identified themselves and their language in Greek as Aigyptios, which was westernized to become Copt. When Egyptian Muslims stopped using that term, it became the name of the native Egyptian Christian minority.

* Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million population. They are divided into a majority Coptic Orthodox Church and a Coptic Catholic Church in union with the Vatican which has about 250,000 members.

* There are also small groups of other Christians affiliated to churches abroad. Arabic and Coptic are used in Coptic services. Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria headed the Coptic Orthodox Church until his death. The Catholic Coptic leader is Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Alexandria.

* The ceremony to elect the 118th leader of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East was unusual. A young blindfolded child picked a name from a container. Copts say this process ensured the final selection was not guided by worldly concerns. The shortlisted candidates were Bishop Raphael, Bishop Tawadros and Father Raphael Ava Mina. They were chosen last month in a ballot of about 2,400 Church and community officials.

* The new pope will guide Christians who are worried about their rights under a new Islamist-led government. Christians complain that churches have been attacked by radical Islamists since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, including St Mary's Church in the Cairo district of Imbaba. Christians have accused the authorities of not doing enough to protect them. The community has also long complained of discrimination against Christians in the workplace and in law, citing rules that make it more difficult to build a church than a mosque.

Sources: Reuters/www.copticchurch.net/www.britannica.com

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Andrew Osborn)