Can the New Coptic Pope Save Egypt’s Christians?
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As the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood makes demands for Sharia law, the Coptic Christian community is growing fearful about its future. Already opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi are being crucified on trees and Christians are being denied permits to build new churches. It is in this environment that thousands of Copts met last Sunday to name a Pope charged with protecting the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
At an elaborate ceremony in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral, a blindfolded boy pulled a ballot out of a crystal chalice revealing that Bishop Tawadros, 60, will now lead the flock of approximately 10 million Egyptian Coptic Christians.
A former pharmacist, Tawadros has a reputation for being open, organized and in favor of integrating Egypt’s Christian minority into public life. The Muslim Brotherhood dominated government, however, has already proposed a new constitution that would subject not only the Muslim majority but also non-Muslim minorities to Islamic law.
As such, Bishop Tawadros is set to have a much harder time guaranteeing the rights of Coptic Christians than his predecessor. The previous Coptic Pope, Shenouda III, who died last March, managed a delicate balancing act by strongly supporting former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in exchange for government protection. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, however, many Egyptian Islamists are eager to break with the traditions of Mubarak and exclude Christians from having a role in the government.
According to the Financial Times, 26 Christian demonstrators were killed by army bullets or crushed to death by military vehicles last year when they protested against the destruction of a local church by Muslims extremists.
As such violence intensifies, many Egyptian Christians are bound to start looking to another type of Pope for protection. Just after Pope Shenouda died last March, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome offered up prayers for him and spoke warmly of the closeness he felt with the Coptic Church. The Roman Pontiff has also recently condemned attacks on unarmed Christians in Egypt and called on the new Egyptian government to do more to guarantee the rights of minorities.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote of time when a great, false church would wield supreme power, boasting that she will not know “the loss of children,” or daughter churches. This prophecy prompted Herbert W. Armstrong to state, with
As Islamist governments take root across the Middle East, the regions Christians will soon turn in mass, not to God, but to Rome and the European countries dominated by the Vatican!