- Associated Press - Sunday, November 4, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s ancient Coptic Christian church named a new pope on Sunday, chosen in an elaborate ceremony where 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 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.

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, discriminates against minorities.

The Brotherhood and its leader, Mohammed Badie, congratulated the church and Tawadros in statements on Sunday.

Tawadros faces tremendous challenges as the country’s transition to democracy is marred by a deep rift between increasingly politically powerful Islamist groups, from which the country’s new president hails, and the liberal and secularist groups who were initially behind the revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year.

At the center of the political squabbling in Egypt is the role of Islam in the country’s new constitution, currently being drafted. The Christians, along with liberal and secularists, oppose demands by Islamists to increase the role of Islamic Shariah law.

Mr. Morsi has named a number of Christians as advisers and vowed to work closely with the community, but Christians are skeptical. Late Saturday, Pachomios said during a popular TV program on the private station al-Nahar that Christians have never held senior state posts or leading positions such as university deans in Egypt’s modern history. He also insisted there be no clause in the constitution allowing state monitoring of the church’s finances, a demand often made by Islamists.

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