|The Coptic Orthodox Church|
Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, chose twelve to be his disciples and seventy to be his apostles. These he charged to go out to all the ends of the earth. Among those seventy is an African named John Mark, better known as St. Mark. He is the author of the second gospel in the New Testament. St. Mark is Jewish by heritage and African by birth. His family lived in a city in North Africa.
He was in Jerusalem visiting at the time when our Lord Jesus Christ was preaching the gospel and being crucified. On the Pentecost day he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He returned back to Africa to preach the good news of salvation and redemption of sins through Jesus Christ.
He went to one of the largest cities of that time, Alexandria, Egypt. At that time the city was the center of learning for the world. It was full of Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and many others.
When St. Mark’s sandals broke he visited a shoe cobbler in Alexandria named Ananias. Ananias injured himself fixing the sandals and called out for help, “Oh you one true God”. St. Mark healed him in the name of Jesus Christ and told him about the one true God. He told him of Jesus Christ and the events that had recently taken place in Jerusalem.
Ananias’ household believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, they were baptized, and their home became the first church in Africa. Christianity being established in Egypt was to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.
“Blessed is my people Egypt” – Isaiah 19:25 & “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border”. – Isaiah 19:19
From early civilization Egypt has been an important part of the Bible. Abraham visited Egypt, Joseph ruled over Egypt, Moses was trained in Egypt, and Jeremiah traveled to Egypt. More importantly, it is the only country outside of Israel that our Lord Jesus Christ visited. When threatened by Herod, the Holy Family fled to Egypt.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt. – Matthew 2:13-14
“Out of Egypt I called My Son”. – Hosea 11:1 & Matthew 2:15
The word Coptic is an ancient Egyptian and Greek word. Originally it was “Aigyptios”, and simply means Egyptian. Later the Arabs shortened it to “Qibt”. From the word “Qibt”, the western tongue derived Coptic. Christianity spread throughout Egypt. In the second century the School of Alexandria was the center of Christian Learning for the entire world. Many great fruits emerged from Coptic Christianity. By the end of the fifth century the church had split into three groups. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox centered in Constantinople, and the Oriental Orthodox centered in Alexandria. Today the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches are close to reconciliation. Monasticism started in Egypt around 320 AD. The father of all monks and the first monk is St. Antony the Great. St. Antony developed the solitary monastic life. The “Kononia” or “Sharing” monastic life was also developed in Egypt by St. Pachomios. The Kononia monastic rule is standard rule used by all Christian Monasteries worldwide of all denominations.
St. Athanisus, the 20th Patriarch of Alexandria, defended the faith against heresy. He is the author of the creed that is recited by all Christian Churches worldwide. (Truly we believe in One God…) In the 7th century the Arabs conquered Egypt. The Arabs brought with them their way of life and religion, Islam. From the 7th to the 14th century the Copts suffered persecution at the hands of the Arabs. Year by year the number of Copts relative to Muslims decreased.
So severe was the persecution that from the 14th to the 19th century there was no recorded Coptic History. Any information recorded about the Copts came from outside sources that were visiting Egypt. From the 14th to the 19th century we find the Copts had become isolated from the rest of the Christian world. Almost no dialogue occurred with the other Christian denominations. Things began to change under Coptic Pope Cyril IV (1854-1861), he was known as “The Reformer”. He had a profound effect on the people. He is the spark that ignited the fire. From that time until the mid 20th century the Coptic Church organized itself. And in 1959 a Coptic Renaissance began. In 1959 a monk known as Father Mina was ordained Pope Kerellos (Cyril) VI.
Pope Kerellos (Cyril) VI revitalized the monasteries of Egypt and he began ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church. The relics of St. Mark were returned from Rome to Alexandria. The Coptic Church’s presence began to grow. Serving under him was Bishop Shenouda. A talented man who worked hard to create a Christian education system. He used grass-roots methods to achieve this. When Pope Kerellos (Cyril) VI reposed from this world, Bishop Shenouda was chosen to be Pope Shenouda III. Pope Shenouda III pushed the church even higher. Under his leadership the church has grown immensely. He has established hundreds of churches outside of Egypt in Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, and South America. It should be noted that in 1971 when he became Patriarch there were only seven Coptic churches outside of Egypt. He is the first Coptic Pope to visit the Vatican since 451 AD. He is known worldwide as a leader of Christian unity. He has written over 100 books. In 1979 he received the Browning Award for Preacher of the Year. Regardless of what continent you live on, we can help you find the closest Coptic Church to you.
--: Coptic Links :--
- www.CopticPope.org The Coptic Papal residence, Cairo, Egypt (His Holiness Pope Shenouda III)
- www.CopticFriendsofAfrica.com.au Coptic Australian mission to S. A. (A biannual visit to South Africa, for preparing conferences to South African Children and Youth)
www.St-Takla.org Best Coptic resources website available online from Saint Teklahimanot Church in Alex, and also has photos of the visit of H. G. Bishop A. Markos to Egypt, July 2007.