Bishop chosen as 118th Coptic Pope

The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt selected its 118th pope on Nov.4 after a young, blindfolded boy picked out a slip of paper out of a chalice with Bishop Tawadros’ name on it.

Early Sunday morning in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, members of the Coptic Church prayed that God would guide the boy’s hand and help him pick the right leader and guide for the ancient Church of Egypt.

The act was the final stage of a long nomination and election process.

In March, after the death of Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Church’s former leader for over four decades, the church faced major internal concerns. A nomination committee started a list of 17 possible successors. They narrowed down the list to five men who could, in their opinion, effectively unite the Coptic community.

A vote from 2,400 church leaders later narrowed the list to three men. The blindfolded boy, chosen at random, concluded the process when he picked Bishop Tawadros’ name.

The blindfolded boy is symbolic of the biblical concept of “casting lots” in the New Testament book of Acts of the Apostles. Casting lots was used to pick Matthias as the next apostle after Judas betrayed Jesus.

Photo Courtesy of the White House
Pope Shenouda III, the 117th Coptic Orthodox Christian’s Pope in Egypt, seen at President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, in 2009.

Externally, as leader of the largest Christian minority in the predominately Muslim Egypt, Shenouda acted as a representative of his people to an often-discriminatory government. In the two years following Egypt’s political revolution, members of the Muslim Brotherhood Party gained power in Egypt, causing anxiety for the Coptic community over increasing discrimination and persecution.


In an interview with Alarabiya, a news channel in the Middle East, Tawadros said he was not worried about the prevalence of Shariah, the code of law based off the Quran, in Egypt as it will not affect the Coptic community of the country. If there were any fears compelling these Egyptians to leave the country, it would be due to the security situation and not the dominance of Muslims.

When asked about partaking in politics, Tawadros said, “The pope doesn’t have time to work as a politician, the pope’s role is the spiritual one firstly, and the Church is a spiritual institution.”

Despite this statement, Tawadros, like his predecessor, may have to face and address future concerns.