Bishop Tawadros picked as Egypt’s new Coptic pope
Bishop Tawadros picked as Egypt’s new Coptic pope
Acting head of the church Bishop Pachomius took the ballot from the boy’s hand and, showing it to the throng inside St. Mark’s Cathedral, announced: “Bishop Tawadros.”
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as church bells tolled in celebration across the country.
The new Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle succeeds pope Shenuda III, who died in March leaving behind a community anxious about its future under an Islamist-led government.
Tawadros, 60, a bishop in the Nile Delta province of Beheira, was among three candidates — the other two being Bishop Rafael, 54, a medical doctor and current assistant bishop for central Cairo, and Father Rafael Ava Mina, 70.
On November 18, Tawadros will assume his new position as spiritual head of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, becoming the 118th pope in a line dating back to the origins of Christianity and to Saint Mark, the apostle and author of one of the four Gospels, who brought the new faith to Egypt.
“The pope is a servant,” Tawadros told Egyptian state television after his appointment, adding that he bore “the responsibility of love and peace.”
Tawadros, whose given name Wagih Sobhy Baqi Suleiman, had come second in a vote last week for three final candidates.
Nearly 2,500 Coptic public officials, MPs, journalists and local councillors had voted to select the three from an original group of five to succeed Shenuda, who died at the age of 88 after four decades on the papal throne.
Tawadros is said to have had the support of the interim head of the church, Bishop Pachomius.
The ceremony in which he was appointed was meant to allow God to help choose the new leader.
The rite, and the use of an altar boy to choose the next pope, “gives a special blessing to the chosen one,” Pachomius told the congregation in St. Mark’s.
Bishoy Girgis Masaad, the altar boy who picked Tawadros’ name from a chalice, was chosen from among 12 children and later told state television he had wanted Tawadros to win.
Pachomius later said in an interview with state television that the new pope had yet to be ratified by President Muhammad Mursi.
But this is a formality, and Mursi sent Tawadros a congratulatory message, the official MENA news agency reported.
Strict measures were taken to ensure there was no foul play during the entire process. The three pieces of paper were all the same size, tied up the same way and placed in the chalice.
Shenuda, a careful, pragmatic leader, died at a critical time for the increasingly beleaguered minority, which has faced a surge in sectarian attacks after a popular uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The pope serves as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up between six and 10 percent of its 83-million-strong population.
Amid increased fears about the community’s future after Mubarak’s overthrow, the new pope will be its main contact with Mursi, Egypt’s first Islamist president.
The rise of Islamists after the revolution has sparked fears among Copts of further persecution at home, despite Mursi’s repeated promises to be a president “for all Egyptians.”
In the most recent incident, five Copts were injured in clashes with Muslims at a church in a village south of Cairo on October 28, security sources said.
The violence broke out when Muslim villagers tried to block access to the church as the Coptic faithful arrived for Sunday mass.
Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire
JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.