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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 06/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) A blindfolded boy stands at the altar next to an aged priest, who cuts an imposing figure in a white and golden robe.

The child waits patiently, as the priest uses a hand-held microphone to address a vast congregation at the ornate St. Mark's Church in Alexandria, Egypt. Hundreds of devoted Christians watch with bated breath as the boy immerses his hand in the chalice, selects a crystal ball containing a ballot and hands it to the priest. This fateful selection is followed by several moment of tense silence as the priest quickly takes out the ballot from the container and unravels it. As soon as he displays the name written in bold Arabic on the paper to the anxious spectators, the vaulted room begins resounding with thunderous applause.

This is the fascinating procedure that determined the selection of the Bishop of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt on Sunday-a ritual that took place after four decades following the death of the last bishop, 88-year-old Pope Shenouda III, in March.

And the ritual that led to the selection of Pope Tawadros II as the 118th Bishop of the Coptic Church and the leader of the largest minority in the Middle East was a painstaking one. Nearly 2,400 members of the Church and the Christian community partook in nominating three people for the position. Even the selection of the boy, who "carried out God's will" by making the blind selection of the ballot, was done based on the religious credentials of the boy and his family.

The appointment of the new Pope has attracted a great deal of attention worldwide, especially at this crucial juncture in Egypt's politics. The Coptic minority has felt increasingly threatened ever since the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government came to power. While discrimination against this community is nothing new in Egypt, violence against them has been mounting in the post-revolution period. In fact, Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, in a cosmetic measure to mitigate the security concerns of the Copts, recently appointed a liberal Christian Samir Morcos as his "assistant for democratic transition".

While Pope Tawadros II is not expected to make any radical changes to the deeply conservative institution of the Church, his leadership of a persecuted community holds vital importance at this point in time. The Copts are looking for a leader who can effectively engage with Egyptian state leaders to ensure their security rights.


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