A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coptic Bishop (and Pope Wannabe) Bishoi Jumps on the Mubarak Bandwagon

Bishop Bishoi, Coptic Metropolitan of Damietta and Secretary of the Church's Holy Synod, has given an interview to Al-Masry al-Youm in which he cites the gospels on why one should support Husni Mubarak, (article is in Arabic). Now, this seems pretty self-serving (blogger Zeinobia is calling him "the Salafi bishop"), but there's more than meets the eye here.

As Secretary of the Holy Synod for the past 25 years, Bishoi is a powerful figure and a strong candidate to succeed the aged and ailing Pope Shenouda III. He's also a polarizing figure. Though he's been active in ecumenical talks with other Christian churches (his website has links here), he's also made remarks to the effect that Catholics and Protestants cannot go to heaven (Arabic reports here and here; the Wikipedia article on Bishoi addresses the issue.) Shenouda has been very active ecumenically, has met with Roman Popes and Greek Patriarchs, and talked intercommunion. Bishoi seems more divisive. (One reason that Al-Masry al-Youm frequently covers Coptic issues is that some of its primary funding and leadership is Christian.)

But Bishoi is not a minor figure, and if anyone in the Coptic church can be said to be "running for Pope," it is he. His episcopal website, in English and Arabic, is here.

This blog has discussed both Pope Shenouda's politics and his fragile health several times. Bishoi, though he has a very different style than Shenouda, seems well-positioned to be a strong contender for the succession. (Traditionally, when a Coptic Pope dies, three candidates are chosen as proposed successors. Their names are put in a container from which a child draws one name, presumably with the guidance of the Holy Spirit; coincidentally however, the name drawn is always someone approved by the Presidency of the Republic.) There is another issue in that ancient canons say the Patriarch should be chosen from the monks, not from the bishops. But Shenouda was a bishop when chosen, as were several other modern Popes. (Shenouda, however, was a "general bishop" without a geographic see, while Bishoi is Bishop of Damietta.) Still, don't count Bishoi out as the next Pope.

And he's clearly making it known to the regime that he's utterly reliable on Mubarak's (presumably father's or son's, since Shenouda has endorsed Gamal) infallibility.

Of course, he's gambling on the race over which octogenarian passes from the scene first: Mubarak (who turns 82 on May 4) or Pope Shenouda (who's 86).


Abu 'Arqala said...

The fact that the Holy Spirit and President of the Republic always choose the same candidate is pretty conclusive proof that the President enjoys a special relationship with the Divinity. Or perhaps it's the other way around?

No wonder the Pope is backing the President.

Herrien said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Collins Dunn said...

As I generally do when you see a "This post has been removed by a blog administrator," I explain why. It wasn't censorship; it was an out and out spam link with no relevance to the post.