Egypt's ancient Coptic Christian church chooses a new pope in elaborate ceremony
Sunday 04 November 2012
Altar boy Bishoy Massad looked a little awestruck as he stepped up to the podium at the front of the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo today.
But given he was about to decide the fate of around eight million Egyptian Christians - by selecting their next Pope at random with a large blue blindfold wrapped around his head - a few nerves were perhaps understandable.
As dozens of flashing camera bulbs lit up a painting of the Last Supper high in the nave behind him, the acting Pope, Bishop Pachomius, stirred three balls of paper around a transparent glass bowl like a lottery compere.
Young Mr Massad plucked out the name, after which Bishop Pachomius unravelled the paper and theatrically twizzled it around to the TV cameras.
An ecstatic roar from the thousands of clergy and congregants filled the soaring vaults of St Mark's Cathedral, the Nasser-era house of worship which is the biggest church in Africa.
The reaction was telling; not simply an outburst of emotion for the winner - 60-year-old Bishop Tawadros, the onetime student chemist who now becomes Egypt's 118th Coptic Pope - but a surge of relief for a community which has found itself feeling threatened following the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.
"The Pope is our shepherd," said 22-year-old Andrew Wagih. "These days the political situation is unstable, so we need him to bring us some hope."
Yet despite the optimistic words of Patriarch Kyrillos VI, a former Pope who once claimed that Egypt's Muslims and Christians were one people 'worshipping the same God in two different ways', many Copts are feeling increasingly isolated.
The process of writing a new constitution has been dominated by an Islamist-led assembly, while elections since the fall of the old regime have revealed robust support for fundamentalists wanting to shoehorn sharia law onto the political agenda.
In addition the poll comes after years of tensions over church-building permits and the highly combustible issues of conversions and intra-religious love affairs.
"He will have to deal with the current political situation," said Joseph Sirgis, a 48-year-old architect who was at the cathedral today. "The political situation is something critical.
"But it is a great day. We have a new Pope. The people have chosen him, and God has chosen him as well.
- 1 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 2 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 3 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 4 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
- 5 Watch eerie drone footage of destroyed building in Stalingrad
#JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
UK election candidates: 'Nasty party' Ukip faces fresh questions on eve of vote
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party's the right choice for you
Ohio 'Shawshank Redemption' fugitive Frank Freshwater arrested after 56 years on the run
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...