(Vatican Radio)”He is a very spiritual man and is known to not like the lime light,
but we couldn’t be happier. Everybody wanted a leader who could unite Egypt’s Christians
in these very difficult times, a man of dialogue and I believe he can do this. He
was the only candidate I voted for”, says Michael Meunier, President of the US Association
of Copts, speaking to Vatican Radio’s Emer McCarthy from Cairo minutes after the election
of the 118th leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros
II, in the iconic Abbasiya Cathedral.
Meunier was one of the layman called
to cast his vote alongside clergy in the complex process of electing the successor
to Pope Shenouda III, who died five months ago, and who had led Egypt’s largest Christian
Church for over 4 decades.
None of the three candidates, nominated in the previous
two rounds of voting, were present at the overflowing cathedral for the ancient rite
of election, during which a blindfolded boy extracted the name of the 61 year old
Nile Delta bishop from a wax sealed bowl. As the interim leader of the Church, Bishop
Bakhomious, displayed the piece of paper with the name written in Arabic, the congregation
erupted into hymns and prayer of thanksgiving.
“I was very privileged to be
there in the front row for this occasion”, comments Meunier, “very few people under
40 will have experienced something like this. We have been fasting and praying for
three days in the lead up to today and now our prayers will accompany Pope Tawadros
until his official ascending to the throne of St Mark in two weeks time”.
fact, the newly elected leader will spend the next two weeks in solitary contemplation
and prayer. Something that has long marked his ministry, Meunier adds: “He is a pharmacist
by profession and had led one of Egypt’s pharmaceutical factories before leaving everything,
and leaving the world to head to the desert to become a monk. I guess in his mind
he had hoped to live in the desert like our beloved monks here and dedicate his life
to prayer. But fate had a different idea for him”.
But Pope Tawadros II
went on to study Church management abroad before being called as bishop to the Niger
Delta region where he impressed Copts with his skills in communication and constant
calls for unity among Christians in Egypt and dialogue with moderate Muslims for the
benefit of all society.
“The Coptic Catholic and the Protestant Church was
present today and everybody was delighted because they wanted a pope who believes
in dialogue, who can bring reconciliation between the churches, represent unified
Christian values for Christians living in Egypt. Because we are faced with many other
challenges from hardliners, from Salafis, from the Brotherhood, from Islamists”.
a whole there is no future for Christians in Egypt without dialogue with Muslims.
We have to engage moderate Muslims in the political fight that we face in Egypt, for
example the new Consitution being drafted, there are a lot of fanatic elements in
society and they are going after moderate Muslims, they are going after women and
they are going after Christians. So it is important to have a Pope who believes in
dialogue with Muslims because it’s the only way to help promote democracy, religious
freedom, human rights and respect for all these values that we hope for”. Listen: