Coptic Pope Prays in Ancient Church Symbolic of Past Persecutions

Natalya Mihailova | 24 July 2016
Coptic Pope Prays in Ancient Church Symbolic of Past Persecutions

Egypt’s Pope Tawadros II made a heartfelt plea on Wednesday (20 July) on behalf of his country’s Coptic minority which has suffered in excess of 12 violent incidents in the last two months.

Shifting the venue of his weekly sermon from the downtown Cathedral of Abbasia to the historic ‘hanging church’ of Old Cairo, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church prayed for “every family which has suffered a martyr.”

The choice of venue for the pope’s plea is highly symbolic. Built in the early centuries of Christianity, the ancient church has been used as a place of refuge from persecution.

The head of the Middle East’s largest Christian community offered a prayer asking “wisdom and a prudent mind” for his country’s officials – who have come under repeated criticism for failing to stem the tide of attacks against Christians.

“I pray …for the entire Egyptian people. I pray for your children everywhere, for every home now wounded, every family which has suffered a martyr,” implored Tawadros in the midst of a smaller congregation than the thousands who usually attend his Wednesday sermons.

For every family which has suffered a martyr

Facing the altar at St. Mary’s in Old Cairo, Tawadros lifted up “failures that appear in some places,” adding “We pray for all […] bless them! Grant the spirit of wisdom, a sober and a prudent mind to all officials as they undertake their responsibilities.”

It was there a millennium ago that Coptic tradition mentions a predecessor of Tawadros who successfully prayed for the moving of the Mount of Mokattam (meaning ‘staggered’) which still overlooks Cairo.

Abram ibn Zaraa, the 62nd patriarch in the See of St. Mark (the apostle believed to have brought the Gospel to Egypt, martyred in Alexandria), led the whole Christian community in prayers at a time their very existence was at stake during the reign of the Muslim Fatimid Empire.

Challenged about the words of Jesus ‘If you have faith like a mustard seed, you’d tell this mountain to move and it would obey you,” the community prayed for deliverance before the mountain is believed to have moved in a freak earthquake-like phenomenon.

“[Pope Tawadros’s move to the Hanging Church] sends a message to the Christians of Egypt that consecutive persecution powers have come and gone, but the church of Egypt is still here,” a Christian source told WWM, requesting anonymity.

The government-linked al-Bawabh News on Wednesday quoted Tawadros as saying, “We are mindful of issues, and the need to let the law take its course.”

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