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Egypt’s Coptic Christians pick Tawadros as new pope
Bishop Tawadros will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II. He will be the spiritual leader of a community that increasingly fears for its future amid the rise of Islamists to power in the aftermath of last year’s uprising.
Many Copts, estimated to make up 10 percent of the country’s 83 million people, will look to Tawadros to fill a void in leadership after the death of Pope Shenouda III, who led the church for 40 years. Shenouda’s death at the age of 88 this year heightened the sense of insecurity felt by many who had known him as patriarch for all or most of their lives.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians have long complained of discrimination by the state and the country’s Muslim majority. Clashes with Muslims have occasionally broken out, often sparked by church construction, land disputes or Muslim-Christian love affairs.
The prospects of a stronger role for Islamic law in legislation increase the Coptic community’s concern of further marginalization and curtailment of their rights of worship and expression.
“We will pray that God will choose the good shepherd,” acting Pope Pachomios told the packed Cairo cathedral as he sealed the chalice with three names inside with red wax before laying it on the altar during Mass.
All three senior clerics whose names were in the chalice were considered consensus candidates who stayed out of disputes both within the church and with other groups, including Islamists.
There was a moment of silence before the drawing by the blindfolded boy, an act believed to reflect God’s will in the choice.
Amid heavy police security around the Cairo cathedral, thousands of worshippers erupted in applause, tears and prayer when his name was announced.
“I hope the new pope will listen to the youth of our community,” 20-year-old engineering student Kirolos Zakaria said.
“The situation for us in Egypt is not stable,” he said. “We hope the incoming pope will make our problems known to the outside world.”
The Brotherhood and its leader, Mohammed Badie, congratulated the church and Tawadros in statements on Sunday.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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