Our Pope and Bishops
Our Church finds its origins from St Mark the Apostle and Gospel writer. When he arrived in Alexandria he quickly appointed a Bishop (St Anianus) for the city to assist him but also to succeed him as leader of the church.
The title or role of Bishop in our church has not changed to this day. Bishop or “Episcopos” means overseer and they are responsible for the congregation as a shepherd to his flock. To this day we look to our bishops as examples of Christ and Fathers whom we trust to guide us.
As the Church spread and many more Bishops were ordained throughout Egypt, the Bishop of Alexandria took the leading role and was considered “First among equals”. He was given the title Archbishop.
By the year 232 the people adorned the Archbishop of Alexandria with the new title of “pope”, in Greek meaning “our father”. So the 13th Successor of St Mark became known as Pope Heracles (232-249 AD). The Church of Rome did not call its Archbishop “pope” till much later sometime between the 4th and 6th centuries. But in doing so it did not take the title from the Pope of Alexandria instead they both hold this title. Indeed when our current Pope visited the Vatican on the 10th May 2013 (the first time in 40 years) they greeted each other as “Your Holiness” acknowledging each other and strengthening the bond of love between our two churches.
In addition to being called Pope the Head of the Coptic Church is also called Patriarch. This recognizes him, as being of apostolic descent and as such is responsible for maintaining the correct faith given to us from St. Mark. This title was given to the five recognized Apostolic thrones at the council of Ephesus 431 AD (Rome, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria).
All of our Popes and Bishops have been unmarried monks. This is one of the major reasons why our church has succeeded to develop a deeply spiritual prayer life as our leaders have taken vows of voluntary poverty, obedience and a life dedicated to our Lord. So within the church the pope is often referred to as “Papa Abba”. Abba being the highest rank of monk acknowledging the pope as our father and father of all the monks as well.
HH Pope Tawadros II
Our current Pope was enthroned as 118th Pope and Patriarch of the See of St Mark on the 18th November 2012. Prior to his ordination his holiness served as a Bishop for fourteen years and has been a monk for twenty-four years.
Our late Pope Shenouda ordained over 100 bishops to shepherd the church with him. In the United Kingdom we are fortunate to have His Grace Bishop Angaelos presiding over youth ministry and the Coptic Centre in Stevenage as well as the theological college. Over the years he has watched over our parish in Croydon with great love and attention.
We have throughout the UK three other wonderful bishops serving tirelessly:
His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim Primate of the British Orthodox Church
His Grace Bishop Missael Diocesan Bishop of Birmingham and the Midlands
His Grace Bishop Anthony Diocesan Bishop of Ireland, Scotland and North East England, and Abbot of St Athanasius Monastery Scarborough.
In our Church the priests are married and serve at a parish level. They are responsible for the spiritual nourishment of the congregation, but more important than that is his duty to provide the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession on a regular basis to the congregation.