Egypt’s Copts select new pope

New leader faces challenge of fear and uncertainty

Bishop Tawadros of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church will be ordained as Pope Tawadros II on Nov. 18.
Roger Anis/El Shorouk Newspaper/Associated Press
Bishop Tawadros of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church will be ordained as Pope Tawadros II on Nov. 18.

CAIRO — Egypt’s ancient Coptic Christian Church named a new pope on Sunday to spiritually guide the community through a time when many fear for their future with the rise of Islamists to power and deteriorating security after last year’s uprising.

The death earlier this year of Pope Shenouda III, a familiar figure who led the church for 40 years, heightened the sense of insecurity felt by many Egyptian Christians. They will now look to Bishop Tawadros, who will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II, to fill the void in leadership.

Tawadros, 60, was chosen in an elaborate Mass where a blindfolded boy drew the name of the next patriarch from a crystal chalice.


‘‘The situation for us in Egypt is not stable,’’ said Peter Nasser, 27, a volunteer at the Mass. ‘‘We hope the incoming pope will make our problems known to the outside world,’’ he added, voicing hopes that Tawadros will also raise the profile of Christians in this country.

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Nasser accused the current government, led by President Mohammed Morsi of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, of discriminating against minorities. He asserted that the new leadership does not work in the interest of all Egyptians.

But even under authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, who ran Egypt for nearly three decades until he was ousted in February 2011, rights groups say police were lax in pursuing and punishing those who attacked Christians, and few Copts were named to genuinely powerful posts in government.

Morsi, who was elected in Egypt’s first free presidential race, has named a number of Christians as advisers and vowed to work closely with the community. But Christians are skeptical.

Morsi congratulated Tawadros and spoke of Egyptian ‘‘unity’’ and ‘‘brotherly love’’ between Copts and Muslims.


Copts, estimated at about 10 percent of the country’s 83 million people, have long complained of discrimination by the Muslim majority state. Under both the old regime and the new Islamist leadership, violent clashes with Muslims have occasionally broken out, often sparked by church construction, land disputes, or Muslim-Christian love affairs.