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Egypt's Coptic Church chooses new pope

Published November 4, 2012 1:05 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Egypt's Coptic Christians picked Bishop Tawadros, 60, as their patriarch today to replace Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after leading the church for 40 years.

A blindfolded altar boy, as per tradition, plucked the name of the new pope from a chalice during a ceremony at St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya, a suburb of Cairo. Three shortlisted candidates were originally chosen by 2,500 church leaders on Oct. 29 to lead the Christian community who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's Muslim-majority population.

During the height of Egypt's uprising last year, Pope Shenouda, who died at the age of 89, publicly discouraged Copts from participating in the protests, sparking criticism that the role had become too politicized. Coptic activists and youth groups are calling for the new spiritual leader to refrain from getting involved in politics.

"We want to put an end to religious involvement in politics," said Mina Thabet, 23, a member of Maspero Youth Union, which was founded in the wake of last year's revolution to promote the rights of Christians.

Sporadic clashes between the Muslim majority in the land of about 83 million people and Copts have broken out this year over churches, land disputes or Muslim-Christian relationships.