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Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church chooses new pope
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church named a new pope on Sunday, chosen in an elaborate ceremony in which a blindfolded boy drew the name of the next patriarch from a crystal chalice.
Bishop Tawadros will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II. He will be the spiritual leader of a Christian 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 following the death of Pope Shenouda III, who led the church for 40 years. Shenouda’s death at age 88 this year heightened the sense of insecurity felt by many who had known him as patriarch for all or most of their lives.
But some critics of Shenouda’s papal style — to act as an intermediary for Copts with the state — hope the change will usher in a patriarch who is head of the church but not necessarily a political leader of the community.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians long have complained of discrimination by the state and the country’s Muslim majority. Clashes with Muslims occasionally have 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 community’s concern of further marginalization, or of curtailing 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 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.
Mr. Zakaria, like others, said he wants the Christian community in Egypt to participate more in politics, but he wants the pope to refrain from getting engaged.
Volunteering at the Mass, 27-year-old Peter Nasser said he hopes the new pope will raise the profile of Christians in Egypt.
“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.”
Mr. Nasser said he believes that the current government, led by President Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, does not work in the interest of all Egyptians and discriminates against minorities.
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