New Coptic Catholic leader receives Pope's approval

Pope Benedict XVI approved Bishop Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak as the new Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts in Egypt, granting him "ecclesiastical communion.''

The former Bishop of Minya was elected during a Synod of Bishops of the Coptic Catholic Church in Cairo, which lasted from Jan. 12 to16. As part of the election, his rank was raised to archbishop.

The 57-year-old will replace Cardinal Antonio Naguib, aged 77, who resigned on Jan. 18 after suffering from partial paralysis and undergoing brain surgery.

The Vatican hopes his appointment will see more collaboration with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, who began his patriarchal ministry in Egypt just two months ago.

And the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, including the heads of the Roman, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean Rites, all offered a formal welcome to the new leader.

"The international press has called you a 'young patriarch,'" they said in a letter dated Jan. 18.

"We are sure that with this 'youth' you will be a point of reference within the Council of Oriental Catholic Patriarchs and the Ecumenical Council of the Churches and for the Church of Egypt," they added.

Archbishop Sidrak was born in Assiut, Egypt, and studied philosophy and theology at a Coptic seminary in Cairo.

He was ordained a priest on Feb. 7, 1980 and incarnated in the Eparchy of Assiut.

He served two years in the Church Michael the Archangel in Cairo before moving to Rome where he received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Archbishop Sidrak returned to Egypt where he taught theology at his seminary, the Patriarchal Seminary of Maadi.

He was elected Bishop of Minya in 2002 after working as rector of the seminary and as secretary general for the Coptic Catholic Church's office for catechetical teaching.

The Egyptian is the second bishop of Minya – an area south of Cairo holding one-fifth of the country's estimated 200,000 Copts – to be elected patriarch.

His ministry as bishop was marked by his efforts to help farmers and people in need, regardless of their faith, through increased social and charitable activities in the villages of the diocese.

The Coptic Catholic Church was established in 1824 and there are five parishes in the United States and in Canada.

Egypt now has two heads of Churches – Archbishop Sidra and the Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II.

Over 10 percent of Egyptians are Copts, which makes them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

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The Orthodox and Coptic leaders will surely be discussing the saftey of Egyptian Christians, which became a topic of concern after President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Party and radical Salafis took up power in the country.

Christians also fear that the recently approved constitution will fail to protect them.

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