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Pope of Alexandria to visit Brazil

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  • arbible
    [01/27/2006 - 11:55] http://www.anba.com.br/ingles/noticia.php?id=9971 Pope of Alexandria to visit Brazil Shenouda III is the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2006
      [01/27/2006 - 11:55]
      Pope of Alexandria to visit Brazil

      Shenouda III is the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which
      gathers the absolute majority of Christians in Egypt and, according
      to tradition, was founded by St Mark in the first century of the
      Christian era. The Pope is coming to consecrate the first Coptic
      Church in the country, in São Paulo. 'He will give his blessing to
      the whole of Brazil,' said father Aghason Anba Paul.

      Sérgio Tomisaki/Agência Meios

      Aghason at Saint Mark's Church: all paintings and furniture were
      brought from Egypt
      Alexandre Rocha*

      São Paulo -Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria will make his first visit
      to Brazil in February. He is the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox
      Church and main Christian authority in Egypt. "He will give his
      blessing to the whole of Brazil," said Aghason Anba Paul, priest of
      the only Coptic Church in the country, located in the Jabaquara
      neighbourhood, in the southern region of the city of São Paulo (SE

      Indeed, the main reason for Shenouda's visit is to consecrate the
      church, completed in September 2001, and which already works in
      practical terms with services on Wednesdays and Sundays (see
      schedules below). The Egyptian patriarch is used to travelling to
      hold direct contact with the faithful around the world. Before
      arriving in São Paulo, on the 10th, he will pass through South
      Africa, then follows to Bolivia, the United States and London, in
      England. "The Coptic Church is spread around the world, we came to
      Brazil quite late," said father Aghason.

      Shenouda has headed the Coptic Church, which gathers the absolute
      majority of Egyptian Christians, for 34 years and is the 117th Pope
      in a line that, according to tradition, started with St Mark in the
      first century of the Christian era. In the same way as St Peter is
      considered the first Pope by Catholics, St Mark was the first Pope
      for the Coptics. "The apostles of Christ set about on mission
      throughout the world and St Mark evangelist went to Egypt," stated
      Aghason. "At the time the Egyptians suffered a lot with roman
      domination," he added.

      The Egyptian popes are chosen in quite a different manner to the
      Conclave of Vatican cardinals. Gathered at the Cairo Cathedral,
      bishops, members of churches' councils and other religious
      authorities vote on a list of eligible popes. After a service, the
      three names most voted for are written on pieces of paper and
      deposited in a jar. Then a child is called to take out one of the
      pieces of paper. This is done three times and the name that is
      repeated becomes the chosen one. If there is a draw, the ritual is
      repeated. "The name of Pope Shenouda came out three times in a row,"
      remarked Aghason.

      Shenouda, aged 82, was born in Asyut, in the south of Egypt, and his
      baptism name is Nazeer Gayed. As in Catholicism, when named pope,
      the Egyptian orthodox patriarch adopts the name of a saint.
      According to Aghason, he has more than 50 years of monastic life and
      wrote more than 120 religious books. Shenouda was the first Coptic
      pope to visit the Vatican in 1,500 years, in 1973, when he was
      hosted by Paul VI. The visit was returned on the year 2000 by John
      Paul II during a journey to Egypt.

      "Pope Shenouda likes his land, Egypt, very much, and is considered a
      great political and religious authority," said Aghason. "Every
      Wednesday he lectures at the Cairo Cathedral to about 5,000 people,"
      he added. The patriarch of Egyptian Christians arrives in Brazil on
      the 10th of February. The service to consecrate he church in
      Jabaquara will take place on the 12th at 8:30 a.m. and will be open
      to the public (see below).

      Saint Mark in Alexandria

      In the mid first century, after preaching throughout Egypt, Mark
      established his church in Alexandria. That is why the city is
      considered the centre of Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church. But in
      reality, nowadays the Coptic Cathedral is in Cairo and Shenouda
      shares his time between the Egyptian capital and the Monastery of
      Saint Bishoy, located in the desert about 100 kilometres northeast
      of Cairo, and every two weeks he travels to Alexandria. The Coptic
      Church has a long monastic tradition.

      Only in the 5th Century A.D. did the Coptic Church become an
      autonomous institution. According to Aghason, although there is no
      great disagreement with regard to the Catholic Church, there are
      conceptual differences. The Copts do not believe, for example, in
      the existence of Purgatory and they differ from the Catholics with
      regard to aspects of the nature of Christ and of the Holy Spirit.

      One of the stretches of Christian history that is most revered by
      the Copts is the passage of the Holy Family through Egypt. According
      to tradition, Joseph, Mary and Jesus spent three and a half years in
      the country, after Herod the Great ordered the "Killing of the
      Innocents" in Bethlehem. There is also, in the Coptic neighbourhood
      of Cairo, a crypt where Christ and his family are supposed to have

      Another difference is that the Coptic Church permits married
      priests, but only if they were married before being ordained. Those
      who opt for a monastic life, however, may not be married.

      "Coptic" is a Westernised term for the Arabic word "qibt", which
      comes from the Greek "aigyptios", or simply "Egyptian". That
      is, "Coptic" means "Egyptian". And the Copts believe they descend
      from the ancient Egyptians. They even have their own language, also
      called Coptic, and their writing is similar to Greek. The language,
      however, is only used in services. In their daily life, the
      Christian population speaks Arabic. "And some families from southern
      Egypt are still fluent in the language," stated Aghason.

      Copts in São Paulo

      In the church in São Paulo the service is in Portuguese. "Most of
      the people who come to the services are Brazilians and it would be
      hard to understand if it were not in Portuguese," stated the priest.
      Parts of the ceremony, however, are in Arabic and Coptic. "This is
      to, at the same time, give the church its own climate," he said. The
      climate is also provided by the paintings and furniture brought from
      Egypt. The baptismal font is as large as a bathtub, large enough to
      bathe the whole body of the child, following the Coptic tradition.

      Aghason arrived in Brazil in August 1993, just two months after
      having been ordained priest. "I was ordained with this mission," he
      said. But why Brazil? "So as to provide a service to the Egyptians
      living in the country, we are a very ancient church and are present
      all around the world. In the United States, for example, there are
      over 100 churches, in Canada 20 or 30. There are also churches in
      France, London, Italy, where we even have two bishops, in all the
      countries in Africa, there is a new church in Mexico and one in
      Bolivia," he added.

      Proving his thesis that the Copts are not that far from the
      Catholics, Aghason stated that when he arrived in Brazil, he spent a
      year and a half living in São Bento monastery, one of the most
      traditional catholic institutions of São Paulo. He then worked in
      the Syrian Orthodox Church. Only in 1997 did they purchase a plot of
      land for the construction of their Saint Mark Church, in Jabaquara
      neighbourhood. He also said that many of the people who go to the
      church are Catholic.

      Aghason was also born in southern Egypt and his baptism name is
      Girgis Akhnoukh Sereig. Coptic priests adopt names of saints when
      they are ordained, in this case Anba Paul means Saint Paul. Before
      becoming a monk in 1988, he graduated in Chemistry and spent four
      years living in the United States. Today, apart from speaking
      Portuguese, he has naturalized himself Brazilian. He lives behind
      the church with four Cocker Spaniel.


      Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
      Rua São Borja, 201, Cidade Vargas, Jabaquara, São Paulo

      Service times
      Sundays at 09:00 am and Wednesdays at 06:30 pm
      On the day of consecration, the service will begin at 08:30 am

      *Translated by Silvia Lindsey and Mark Ament
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