The Coptic Pope Tawadros II was enthroned Sunday as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians. He was elected Pope in early November.
Reuters reports that Coptic Christians make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 83 million people, making them one of the largest minority groups in the predominantly Muslim nation. Copts have long complained of facing increasing discrimination as the Egyptian government grows more Islamist, but in a show of good faith, the Muslim prime minister and a host of other cabinet officials attended the ceremony.
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi did not attend.
The crowded cathedral burst into applause more than once, culminating with the Coptic papal crown Tawadros II’s head as he sat on the throne of St. Mark.
Mark, the evangelist and author of one of the four gospels, is credited for spreading Christianity to Egypt in the decade after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. The Coptic Church, officially called the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, fell out of communion with the Catholic Church in 451 A.D. over the Council of Chaldeon.
The Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, sent a message of congratulations to Tawadros. He said he hoped the relationship between the Catholic and Coptic churches would grow “in a fraternal spirit of collaboration” as well as “through a deepening of the theological dialogue.”
Tawadros II has spoken of his desire to protect the rights of Christians in Egypt, saying he will oppose any new constitution that addresses only Islamic concerns. The Associated Press reports that while Pope Tawadros II did not speak during the televise ceremony, a speech read on his behalf said he pledged to work for the good of all Egypt, Copts and Muslims alike.
Tawadros II succeeds Pope Shenouda III, who led the church in Egypt for 40 years before his death in March.