Bishop Tawadros was chosen this morning as the 118th Coptic Pope.
Cairo — Egypt’s ancient Coptic Christian church chose a new pope in an elaborate Sunday ceremony meant to invoke the will of God, in which a blindfolded boy drew the name of the next patriarch from a crystal chalice.
Bishop Tawadros, 59, an aide to the acting pope, was selected to become Pope Tawadros II, replacing the charismatic Pope Shenouda III who died earlier this year after 40 years at the helm of the church.
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. Tawadros will assume the papacy as Egypt’s Christians, estimated to make up 10 percent of the country’s 83 million people, fear for their future amid the rise of Islamists to power in the wake of the 2011 ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
The death of Pope Shenouda III at age the 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.
At the televised ceremony held in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, acting Pope Pachomios laid the three names in clear balls inside a chalice before starting Mass. There was a moment of silence before the drawing by the blindfolded boy, an act believed to reflect God’s will in the choice.
“We will pray that God will choose the good shepherd,” Pachomios told the packed cathedral as he sealed the chalice with red wax before laying it on the altar during Mass.
The process of electing a new pope began weeks ago, when a committee from the church narrowed the list of potential candidates from 17 down to five monks and bishops. On Monday, about 2,400 clergymen and church notables drew up a short list of three that also included Bishop Raphael, 54, once an aide to the late Pope Shenouda, and Father Raphael Ava Mina, the oldest among them at 70, a monk in a monastery near Alexandria and a student of the pope who preceded Shenouda.
In addition to having stayed out of disputes with other groups, including Islamists, the bishops were chosen only from those without a diocese to avoid any risk of favoritism.
The papal election comes during a shift in Christian attitudes toward their relation to the state. For years, Christians largely relied on the church to secure protection for their rights, using Shenouda’s close relationship with Mubarak.
But Shenouda had longstanding critics within the community who asked why a cleric should act as an intermediary between them and the state. Following the uprising and the pope’s death, more Copts have been emboldened to act outside the church to independently demand rights, better representation and freedom of worship.
None of the candidates attended the ceremony, and are instead praying in their respective monasteries. The state’s MENA news agency says church leaders will head to Tawadros’s retreat in the monastery complex of Wadi Natrun northeast of Cairo to congratulate him.
Pope Tawadros II 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 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.
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 community’s concern of further marginalization, or of curtailing of their rights of worship and expression.
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 will be no clause in the constitution allowing state monitoring of the church’s finances, a demand often made by Islamists.
Formal complaint documents Rev. Stephen Sizer’s offensive anti-Semitic statements and “deep hostility to Zionism.”
London – Britain’s Jewish community representative organization has taken the unprecedented step of lodging a formal complaint to the Church of England, the country’s officially established Christian church, accusing one of its clergyman of anti-Semitism.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Rev. Stephen Sizer, the vicar of Virginia Water Church in Surrey and an ardent anti-Israel campaigner, of making anti-Semitic statements and republishing anti-Semitic material.
The action comes at a time when the relationship between the Jewish community and the Church of England has taken a downward turn, following its decision in July to strengthen ties with an anti-Israel group.
According to the board’s vice-president, Jonathan Arkush, Sizer has made statements that the board and most of the Jewish community find utterly offensive, to the point of crossing the line into anti- Semitism.
The representative organization lodged the complaint under the Church of England’s disciplinary process, an act of parliament known as the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.
Submitting the complaint on behalf of the board, Arkush said, “The evidence disclosed indicates that Rev. Sizer spends time trawling dark and extreme corners of the Internet.”
“Rev. Sizer republishes items to support the target of his polemical writing, while at the same time introducing his readers to the racist and anti-Semitic websites from where he draws his material,” he added.
The complaint cites numerous examples over an 11-month period showing a clear and consistent pattern of activity that “can no longer go unchallenged.”
In October 2011, the Church of England minister posted a link to his Facebook page from an anti-Semitic website called “The Ugly Truth: Zionism, Jewish extremism and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today.”
Sizer removed the link three months later only after numerous complaints.
Bishop of Manchester Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch, who is also the chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, said at the time that “the content and delay in removing the link from Mr. Sizer’s Facebook page was disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England to promote.”
In March, Sizer linked a picture of US bases surrounding Iran from the “Veterans Today” website, which publishes articles defending Hitler, and promotes Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and the anti- Semitic musician Gilad Atzmon.
“Its home page quickly discloses articles displaying hatred of Jews and Israel. Rev.
Sizer could not have missed these when searching the site for material to post on his blog,” the board maintained.
In May, four months after removing the controversial link, Sizer acknowledged that the “Ugly Truth” contained offensive material and said that he had “no wish” to be associated with it.
“I have on many occasions condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and will continue so to do because it is abhorrent to me,” Sizer maintained.
However, only a month later, he again linked his blog to another anti-Semitic website. The homepage “Window into Palestine” displays a Nazi flag with a swastika superimposed on a Star of David and carries a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, describing it as an “important tome.”
The charge sheet questions the sincerity of Sizer’s condemnation of anti-Semitism.
“Any visitor to ‘Window into Palestine’ would see immediately that it is racist and anti-Semitic. Rev. Sizer posted a link to this website exactly one month after telling the Council of Christians and Jews that he condemned all forms of anti-Semitism.
Arkush said that Sizer displays an obsession with Israel and opposes its identity as a Jewish state.
“Rev. Sizer displays a deep hostility to Zionism, which he writes about as if it was a term of abuse. It is not difficult to come across his views, as he is an enthusiastic self-publicist who proclaims his preoccupation with Israel on his website, blog and Facebook and Flickr pages.”
He also said that Sizer has few qualms about the company he keeps.
“He has shared a platform with and quoted from Holocaust-deniers; goes on trips to Iran as the guest of the NEDA Institute, which contributes to global efforts to deny the Holocaust and gave an interview with Quds News Agency, a Holocaust- denying website. Sizer is also a speaker at the provocatively named Christ at the Checkpoint conference, which features a theology called supersessionism which has anti-Semitic overtones”…
The complaint will now be considered by Bishop Christopher Hill, the bishop of Guildford, which is the jurisdictional area under which Sizer’s church falls.