OUR ORTHODOX CHURCH

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient churches in the world, founded in Egypt in the first century by Saint Mark the Apostle and writer of the second Gospel of the New Testament. A conservative church, it has carefully preserved the Orthodox Christian faith in its earliest form. It is a faith that has been passed down through generations,always remaining true to the apostolic doctrines and patterns of worship. The church’s spiritual approach emphasizes holiness, divine mysteries and fellowship, rooted firmly in the canons of the holy scriptures, the apostolic and orthodox creeds, the teachings of the church fathers and the first three ecumenical councils. The church’s spiritual approach emphasizes holiness, divine mysteries and fellowship, rooted firmly in the canons of the holy scriptures, the apostolic and orthodox creeds, the teachings of the church fathers and the first three ecumenical councils. The church’s spiritual approach emphasizes holiness, divine mysteries and fellowship, rooted firmly in the canons of the holy scriptures, the apostolic and orthodox creeds, the teachings of the church fathers and the first three ecumenical councils.

Egypt is a land rich in history, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. In His infancy,during their flight from Israel at the instruction of the angel, the Lord visited Egypt with His mother Saint Mary, and Saint Joseph Naturally, Egypt became their second home and a place of refuge (Matthew 2:13-14). The word ‘Copt’ is derived from the Pharaonic word ‘gypt’ and the subsequent Greek word ‘Aigyptus’ meaning ‘Egypt’. Copts are the Christian and indigenous peoples of Egypt, direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians, a people with perhaps the longest history on record.

When Saint Mark travelled to Egypt on two separate occasions, he preached the Christian message to many in the land. During his first journey, he met with Ananias, who expressed knowledge of the concept of ‘one god’, and when this was further explained by Saint Mark within a Christian context, he accepted the faith and was baptized along with his household. Soon after, many others pronounced their newfound belief and Ananias’ house became a meeting place for the faithful. After witnessing for seven years, Saint Mark was martyred in AD 68 when followers of Serapis (the Serapion-Abbis Greek Egyptian god) attacked the church in which he prayed and dragged him through the streets of Alexandria for two consecutive days.

Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church has the largest Christian presence in the Middle East, with approximately 10-15 million members in Egypt, representing about 15% of the population. They vibrantly, actively and faithfully fill their churches and monasteries, living as productive and faithful members of their communities. The Coptic Orthodox Church has also experienced rapid growth in the lands of immigration over the past 30 years. There are now over 15 dioceses and 500 parishes outside Egypt, and the Church continues to flourish by the grace of God. It is important to make mention of the fact that we do not consider our communities living abroad as a diaspora, since 90 per cent of Coptic Christians still live in their native Egypt.

The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. St. Jerome records that the Christian School of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark himself.[5] Around AD 190 under the leadership of the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and the native Egyptian Origen, who was considered the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. Origen wrote over 6,000 commentaries of the Bible in addition to his famous Hexapla. Many scholars such as Jerome visited the school of Alexandria to exchange ideas and to communicate directly with its scholars. The scope of this school was not limited to theological subjects; science, mathematics and humanities were also taught there. The question-and-answer method of commentary began there, and 15 centuries before Braille, wood-carving techniques were in use there by blind scholars to read and write. The Theological college of the catechetical school was re-established in 1893. The new school currently has campuses in Ireland, Cairo, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, where Coptic priests-to-be and other qualified men and women are taught among other subjects Christian theology, history, the Coptic language and art – including chanting, music, iconography, and tapestry.

Many Egyptian Christians went to the desert during the 3rd century and remained there to pray and work and dedicate their lives to seclusion and worship of God. This was the beginning of the monastic movement, which was organized by Anthony the Great, Saint Paul of Thebes, the world's first anchorite, Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Pachomius the Cenobite in the 4th century. Christian monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church character of submission, simplicity and humility, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts. By the end of the 5th century, there were hundreds of monasteries, and thousands of cells and caves scattered throughout the Egyptian desert. A great number of these monasteries are still flourishing and have new vocations to this day. All Christian monasticism stems, either directly or indirectly, from the Egyptian example: Saint Basil the Great Archbishop of Caesaria of Cappadocia, founder and organizer of the monastic movement in Asia Minor, visited Egypt around AD 357 and his rule is followed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches; Saint Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin, came to Egypt, while en route to Jerusalem, around AD 400 and left details of his experiences in his letters; Benedict founded the Benedictine Order in the 6th century on the model of Saint Pachomius, but in a stricter form. Countless pilgrims have visited the "Desert Fathers" to emulate their spiritual, disciplined lives.

There are about 20 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the world. Between 15 and 18 million of them are found in Egypt under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.Since Egypt does not have an official government census on religion, estimates of the size of Egypt's Christian population vary from the estimated low previous government figures of 6 to 7 million to the 12 million reported by some Christian leaders in 2008. The actual numbers may be in the 11 to 13 million range, out of an Egyptian population of more than 90 million.However, in 2011, the Pew Research Center announced that Copts in Egypt constitute 4.5% of the population, while the Catholic Holy See puts Copts at 6 to 8%.Then in 2017 government-owned news, Al Ahram estimated the percentage of Copts at 10 to 15%.However, in 2012 after the Egyptian revolution the Muslim Brotherhood was drafting new constitution then Major-General Abu Bakr al-Guindi claimed that the lower figures support a downward trend in the percentage of Copts in Egypt, as recorded in consecutive estimated Egyptian censuses since a 1927 high where Egyptian Christians formed 8.3% of the population.[30] This decline has been explained by Major-General Abu Bakr al-Guindi, head of Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, as being the result of Copts having the highest emigration rate, the lowest birthrate and the highest income level in the country. Although many Copts rejected this statement and population count by Abu Barker al-Guindi claiming they have been undercounted as most Copts reside in Upper Egypt.

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