A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Copts in Feud with ME Council of Churches

Pope Shenouda III has suspended the Coptic Church's membership in the Middle East Council of Churches, in a dispute which finds the controversial Secretary of the Coptic Holy Synod, Bishop Bishoi, involved. The Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos, denied Bishoi the right to defend the church when others attacked the Secretary General of the MECC, Girgis Saleh, a Copt.

Right now, the Al-Masry al-Youm report is the only thing I can find, so this is a preliminary comment. Hopefully, we'll learn more shortly.

We all recognize that Eastern Christians are waning in the land where the religion was founded and neighboring lands, driven out by militant Islamists, Iraqi warfare, Israeli land pressure, and the like. But the internal feuds that have riven Christianity since the earliest centuries have not gone away.

If you can't readily remember the difference between a Nestorian and a Monophysite or, more importantly, why both terms are offensive to the churches Catholics and Orthodox refer to with those terms, this will be way too abstruse for you.

Many of the main characters in this drama have been the subjects of posts here before. Pope Shenouda III is a regular subject of the blog, as the Coptic Pope/Patriarch is in his 80s and succession is a lively issue. Anba (Bishop) Bishoi is Bishop of Damietta and would very, very, very much like to be the next Pope; as Secretary of the Holy Synod he's got an excellent chance, but is a polarizing figure who alienates other religions (suggesting Catholics and Orthodox cannot be saved, while Shenouda has been an ecumenical figure), he may have polarized the Copts out of the Middle Eastern Council of Churches. Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, is a controversial figure in his own right, having come to power when his predecessor Irenaios was deposed in 2005, caught up in a dispute over leasing church property to Israeli settlers in the Old City. But there's another issue: the Orthodox church still insists that the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem must be Greek. Almost all of his church's followers in the Jerusalem Patriarchate (mostly Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan), its priests, and many of its bishops are Arabs; yet the Patriarch always comes from a Greek monastery. As does Theophilos.

So none of the main characters in this drama are exactly uncontroversial. It will be interesting to see what happens next, assuming this report is true. I haven't got much more at this time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Jerusalem Day!

Want to test your knowledge of Jerusalem? Take the quiz

http://www.jcpa.org/Quiz/jerusalemquiz.html