Sunday, April 30, 2017

Coptic Christianity, Egypt, & the Pope

Pope Francis went to Egypt last week. He met President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and spoke against violence and extremism "in the language of religion."

He also met with his Coptic Orthodox counterpart to show support for their persecution. Isis has targeted that group in recent years, bombing its churches, and beheading, and killing members.

Who are the Coptics? Why are they in Egypt?   How are they different from Roman Catholics? How many Coptics exist?  Why are they being persecuted?
  • Origins: The Apostle St. Mark founded the Coptic Church in Alexandria ten years after the death of Jesus.
  • Beliefs: Coptics and Catholics disagree over the divine nature of Christ. The Copts believe that Jesus has only ONE nature. They do not distinguish, as Catholics do, between Jesus as man and Jesus as God.  This belief in the oneness of Jesus is called Miaphysitism.
  • Beliefs Continued: Another difference between the Copts and Catholics is that the Copts are much more orthodox. During the Coptic Lenten fast, for example, Copts do not eat fish, meat, or animal products like milk and cheese.  And they eat nothing until sunset on Good Friday and pray all day. 
  • Split from Rome: Copts split from Rome in the fifth century at the Council of Chalcedon over miaphysitism. According to Gerard Russell, in his book , Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, 'the Copts were emphatic that Jesus had only one nature and still refer to themselves as Miaphysites."
  • How Many: Copts make up about 10% of Egypt's population. The Egyptian government says there are about 5 million Copts but the Copts say there are between 15 and 18 million.
The CNN clip below covers the Pope's visit to Egypt.  Next, 60 Minutes reviews the Coptic history and beliefs. Finally, the Coptic Church produced a short documentary that also reviews history and beliefs.


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