Tag Archives: Oriental Orthodox

Electing a New Coptic Pope

Coptic Orthodox Cross, Reads: "Jesus Christ, the Son of God"

While most of the world is focusing on the USA Presidential election, there is another election going on in Egypt that is even more important. It is the election of the successor of Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria who died on March 17, 2012.

Established by St. Mark (the same guy who wrote the Gospel of Mark) around 42 AD, the Coptic Orthodox Church has about 18 million followers worldwide with 2 to 4 million currently living in Egypt. They are also part of the Oriental Orthodox Communion, a group of six churches in full union with each other.

Not to mention the fact that, as if having this large of a flock wasn’t enough, the new pope is going to have to deal with the political upheaval of the new government of Egypt. It is a task that can only be done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit….

The election itself is very interesting to me as it is done in a way that is contrary to how other church groups election their popes. Rather than choosing a new pope from among the existing bishops, the Coptic Church gathers a list of monks, bishops, abbots or priests whom have been endorsed by six bishops or twelve of the 24 members of the General Lay Council. A committee of nine bishops and nine laypersons will then narrow this list down to five or seven candidates.

From there, a 2,400~ member Electoral College (diocese representatives, community leaders, bishops, etc.) votes to narrow the list down to the top three candidates. The entire church body then embarks on a week-long prayer and fasting period followed by a liturgy service. During this service the name of the three final candidates are then placed into a box on the altar of St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo where a blindfolded five year-old child draws the name of the next pope.

This to me is a beautiful combination of democracy, human wisdom and utter reliance on the Holy Spirit! It has democracy as both the bishops and laypeople of the church are allowed to nominate candidates; human wisdom then narrows the lists of candidates down to those who are most gifted and able to lead, before turning things back to democracy (i.e. the voting on the top five to seven candidates). The final selection is then left to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in that God guides the hand of the young child in choosing the next pope.

Beautiful!! 🙂

Continue reading Electing a New Coptic Pope

Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Book Launch

Bishop Angaelos and Archbishop McDonald with the book (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)

Two weeks ago the Roman Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches released a landmark book focusing on the areas of theological agreement between themselves. The book, which can be downloaded for free, is simply entitled “Joint Statements” and addresses various issues under four main areas:

  1. The Mystery of the Church
    • The Holy Trinity and the Church as Communion
    • The Attributes of the Church
    • Growing Towards Full Communion
    • Point for Further Study and Discussion
  2. Bishops in Apostolic Succession
    • Bishops
    • Apostolic Succession
  3. Synodality/Collegiality and Primacies
    • Local/Diocesan Churches and Their Bishops
    • Relationship Between Synodality, Conciliarity and Primacies
    • Ecclesiological Meaning of Synods and Councils
    • Point for Further Study and Discussion
  4. The Mission of the Church

The publication of this book is made even more phenomenal and meaningful due to the history of these two major branches of Christianity. They officially  separated from each other at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD when the bishops of Rome and Constantinople excommunicated the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem for not agreeing with them on how to describe the divine and human nature of Jesus. The excommunicated bishops went on to form six national Oriental Orthodox churches: Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India) and Armenian Apostolic churches.

Sadly enough this split within Christianity was only partly about theology as the primary issue at state during the firth century was a political  power struggle between bishops. In fact, in 1984 the Syriac Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and the Pope John Paul II released the following statement:

“The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.”

As you can see, the Lord is moving to restore unity among His people – a unity build upon love and mutual respect. Glory be to the King!

The Apocrypha – Why did we get rid of them?

I’ve been confused lately… why, after 1,500 years, did we all of a sudden decided to drop the inter-testamental books from the Bible? It doesn’t make sense… at least not to me…

I’m confused. Undecided

Here’s what I know so far:

  • The Christian Bible included the inter-testamental books up until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s.
  • Martin Luther was the first person to move the inter-testamental books from the Old Testament into a separate selection called the “Apocrypha”.
  • Protestant Bibles included them in a “Apocrypha” section until around the 1820’s, when they stop appearing.

So why did Martin Luther decided that the inter-testamental books where no longer valid? I mean, the church used them for over 1,500 hundred years!!! Shoot, some of the books were used by True Believers longer then the writing of Paul.[@more@]

One of the arguments about the validity of the Bible is that God has kept it around despite plans to destroy all copies. As such, if God allows the inter-testamental books to survive as part of the Bible for over 1,800 years, what makes the last 200 years so important that we can thrown the inter-testamental books away?

I guess I should mention that I’ve heard it said that when St. Jerome translated the Vulgate he used the Masoretic or Hebrew text of the OT instead of the Septuagint or Greek text. Apparently the Masoretic text did not have the inter-testamental books listed why the Septuagint did. Still, St. Jerome included the inter-testamental books in the Vulgate…

I don’t know…

I just think that it is very, very strange that why the rest of Christendom uses the inter-testamental books, we Protestant don’t.  Why is that?

Currently the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Georgian, etc), and Oriental Orthodox Churches (Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Armenian Apostolic churches) all use the inter-testamental books as part of their canon. In addition, while the Anglican Church does not recognize the Apocryphal books as canon, they do use them liturgically.