Middle East

Copts In Egypt Select New Pope

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/164274649/164274630" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A new pope of Egypt's Coptic Christian community has been selected Sunday. It's a major event for the Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million.


Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church has a new pope. The selection and announcement was made today. It is a major event for the Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population. Reporter Merrit Kennedy is in Cairo and she sent this report.


MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: Thousands of Coptic Christians are gathered at the cathedral in Cairo for the selection of the new pope. As mass begins, a challis on the altar contains three papers with the names of the finalists. After a month's long selection process, the future of the church is in the hands of a blindfolded child. He'll draw the name of the new pope out of the challis. The child is selected is at the very last minute.

HAITHEM SHEAHATA ABDEL-MESSIH: (foreign language spoken)

KENNEDY: Haithem Sheahata Abdel-Messih is waiting outside the cathedral for the announcement. He explains that last week's election was the opportunity for the congregation to voice its opinion. Now, he says, God will reveal his choice for the future direction of the church.


KENNEDY: Images captured on state television showed the boy, Bishoy Gergis Mossaad, blindfolded in a blue cloth, reaching his hand into the ornate challis. The congregation applauds as he hands the scroll to the acting pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (foreign language spoken)

KENNEDY: In ornate Arabic script, the scroll reads: Bishop Tawadros. Sixty-year-old Tawadros presided over the Beheira Province in the Nile Delta. He was the head of a pharmaceutical factory before becoming a monk and is known for his focus on youth service. Youssef Sidhom, the editor-in-chief of Watani, a Coptic newspaper, says he's very capable of dealing with the world outside the church.

YOUSSEF SIDHOM: Bishop Tawadros has many excursions abroad, and he served on many occasions in European countries.

KENNEDY: The previous pope, Shenouda III, passed away in March. He headed the church for 41 years and was an iconic, spiritual and political leader for Egypt's Coptic Christians. His political involvement was controversial, says Youssef Sidhom.

SIDHOM: After the revolution, the rules of the game have changed.

KENNEDY: Sidhom expects the new pope to focus less on politics than his predecessors as Copts themselves are joining a wide array of political groups and movements. Pope Tawadros II will begin his tenure at a time of increasing anxiety for Egypt's historically marginalized Coptic Christians after the rise of political Islamism and a number of recent violent interreligious incidents.

MINA GIRGIS ANIS: (foreign language spoken)

KENNEDY: Mina Girgis Anis, a university student outside the church, says that this has been a difficult period. Like many other Christians, he's relieved to have a new leader at the helm. For NPR News, I'm Merrit Kennedy in Cairo.


MARTIN: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from