THE CHURCH TODAY
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Coptic Church underwent phases of new development. In 1853, Pope Cyril IV established the first modern Coptic school, including the first Egyptian school for girls. He also founded a printing press, which was the second national press in the country. Pope Cyril IV established very friendly relations with other denominations, to the extent that when the Greek Patriarch in Egypt had to absent himself for a long period of time outside the country, he left his Church under the guidance of the Coptic Patriarch.
The Theological College of the School of Alexandria was reestablished in 1893. It began its new history with five student, one of whom was later to become its dean. Today it has campuses in Alexandria, Cairo, and various dioceses throughout Egypt, as well as outside Egypt, in New Jersey, Los Angeles, Sydney, Melbourne and London, where potential clergymen and other qualified men and women are taught many subjects, among which are theology, church history, missionary studies, and Coptic language.
Today the Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Church in the Middle East, with about 12 million faithful in Egypt. There is an increasing number of monks and nuns in monasteries and convents in the deserts of Egypt, and an increasing number of well educated young men and women who are consecrating their lives to the ministry as parish priests, monks, nuns, deacons, and deaconesses.
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Church is now made up of 90 metropolitans and bishops, headed by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III who came to the Patriarchate in 1971.
The Coptic Church is an active member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), the Australian Councill of Churches, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and many other such international, regional, national, and local bodies. It was the founding member of the Middle East Council of Churches in 1974 under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.
His Holiness, being a great ambassador of the Coptic Church, and Christendom in general, was recently president of the WCC for a seven year period, and remains one of the presidents of the MECC.
In this same spirit, the Coptic Church is currently engaged in either official or unofficial dialogues with most Christian Churches and denominations, continuing its work for unity and the reuniting of the one, holy, universal Church.
As the head of the oldest Church in Africa, Pope Shenouda was keen to extend the Apostolic Mission of St. Mark across all Africa. In June 1976, His Holiness ordained a bishop for African Affairs to commence missionary work among the African tribes in Kenya. Today there are over 14 Coptic church, two monasteries, a clinic, and a vocational center in Kenya, Zambia, Zaire, and the surrounding regions as well as churches in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. In 1955, a Bishop for Mission was also consecrated to further this growing ministry.
Outside Egypt, there are over 80 churches in the United States, as well as two theological colleges and a monastery in California, while in Canada there are 21 churches. There are over 20 churches in Australia alongside two monasteries, two Coptic Theological Colleges, and a number of Coptic schools. In Europe, there are over fifty churches across twelve countries. There are now established several Coptic monasteries in Germany, Italy, and France. The United Kingdom now ha over fifteen churches, a retreat center in Birmingham and a Church Centre and Theological College in Stevenage.
An important indication of the success and growth of the ministry of the Coptic Church outside Egypt is the growing number of her children who have been brought up in various countries and are now becoming monks, nuns, priests, and bishops. They serve their own churches and the Church at large as people who have lived in these communities and have an in-depth knowledge of their language, people and culture.
As an important pastoral note, the Coptic Church is now appointing bishops to oversee various diocese and areas around the world, ensuring more concentrated local pastoral care. There are currently 4 bishops across the U.S., 2 in Australia, 2 in France, 2 in Italy, 1 in Germany, 1 in Switzerland, 1 in Austria, 2 in Africa, and 4 in the United Kingdom. As the ministry grows and expands, we can be sure of seeing many more such appointments in the coming years.
In considering all of the above mentioned facts, it is obvious that the Coptic Orthodox Church has been blessed with a very firm foundation which has lead it to grow in many directions, maintaining her care for her children throughout the past twenty centuries and leading them into the twenty-first century with the approach of intensified educational and pastoral care. This approach ensures the continued line of Traditional and Apostolic Orthodoxy faithfully handed down from generation to generation, and maintains the role of the Church in spreading the message of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and professing the Salvation which He has provided for us through the ultimate sacrifice of the Cross, and His glorious Resurrection. It is also obvious that the Lord has kept and protected the Church through wave after wave of persecution, maintaining her as a devoted witness to His divine and joyful message throughout the ages.
We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true incarnate Word of God, grant His Church continued protection and guidance for years to come, in preparation for the glory of His triumphant Second Coming, that He may then guide us into His everlasting kingdom with the joyful words “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)