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Another rival for Coptic Church

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    Thursday June 2, 2005 Another rival for Coptic Church By Magdy Samaan [photo at url: Wannabe Patriarch Maximum Yohanna, aka Maxie Michele Courtesy Maxie
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 8 5:45 PM
      Thursday June 2, 2005
      Another rival for Coptic Church
      By Magdy Samaan

      [photo at url: Wannabe Patriarch Maximum Yohanna, aka Maxie Michele
      Courtesy Maxie Michele]

      The Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian institutions
      in the world, has a new competitor in the form of the recently
      established Church of St. Athansius, a branch of an existing
      denomination founded in the United States.

      Maxie Michele, an Egyptian Copt, succeeded in obtaining a license to
      establish a church from the state in mid-April. He has added his
      voice to a growing number of Copts who are displeased with the
      Church's handling of personal matters and accuse it of being rigid,
      authoritarian and unwilling to modernize. The church's handling of
      personal status matters such as divorce is widely seen as the primary
      cause of conversions to Islam and to Protestant Coptic Evangelical

      Bishop Moussa, a prominent member of the Coptic Church, countered by
      saying that the church is very responsive to the needs of the
      community, as seen by how priests are actually chosen. "We have a
      democratic system in choosing priests, the people must accept their
      priests and nominate them. There is direct communication between them
      to solve any problems."

      Michele has made himself the patriarch of the new church under the
      name Bishop Maximus Yohanna. The church was registered with the help
      of a Coptic immigrant to the United States, who established it in the
      United States as an interdenominational church. Michele used
      documents from the U.S. government's register of churches to
      establish his case before the Egyptian government.

      "The new church is open for all Christian denominations and it will
      conduct prayers according to Orthodox, Roman Catholic and all
      Christian denominations in the same building," Michele told Cairo.

      The Coptic Orthodox Church has refused to recognize Michele's
      breakaway group. "There aren't independent churches in Christianity,
      and anybody who says they are a patriarch, who appointed him? When
      somebody receives a religious title, one receives it from a higher
      power. Who has the authority to make him a patriarch?" asked Pope
      Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, in a
      conversation with journalists on 24 May following his return from a
      medical trip to the United States.

      "Our people will reject something like this, and it will not
      succeed," he predicted.

      Michele was a lay worker in the Church from the Gharbiya governorate
      and had a conflict with Church leaders in the 1970s over an article
      he wrote for a local paper about the Holy Spirit. He was expelled
      after refusing to repent.

      "They refused to discuss it with me and found it easier just to
      say, `Leave!'" said Michele.

      In 1991 Michele created the St. Athanasius Foundation to do charity
      work in Muqattam, and his ideas developed over the course of the
      work. His followers today largely come from this base, although he
      refuses to disclose their total numbers.

      "We have two fundamental principles," Michele said of the new
      church. "The first principle is theological, and stems from the
      teachings of the Church fathers in the age before the division in the
      4th century, and this is that we believe the creed of Christian faith
      is a common ground for everyone to join. The second principle is
      weightier, and depends on acceptance of the other and unity from our

      Copyright © 2005 Cairo Magazine

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