By Dioscorus Boles –
On the 6th January 2022, the YouTube channel, Coptic Orthodox Church, published an 8-minute massage by Pope Tawadros II, titled Papal Message, Christmas 2022, English, addressed to all the Coptic Orthodox faithful outside Egypt. I wish Pope Tawadros II a happy Nativity and New Year; and I write this article with all due respect to his position as Head of our Coptic Church. However, I could not pass it without comment.
What worried me in the videoed meassage is the appearance of the Egyptian flag that stood on his left-hand side throughout the address. Is it right that the Egyptian flag should accompany a message by the Head of the Coptic Church to the faithful outside Egypt?
Pope Tawardos II addresses his messages to Coptic Orthodox Christians outside Egypt, both clergy and laity, and he specifies by mention those in America, Canada, South America, Europe, Jerusalem See, Africa, Arabian Gulf, Australia, and all cities where there are Coptic churches.
My concerns are as follows:
- Although Pope Tawadros is an Egyptian citizen he is not a state official, and therefore there is no need for the presence of the Egyptian flag while he was addressing faithful;
- The Coptic Orthodox Church is not an Egyptian state department and should never be allowed to be, and therefore, again, there is no need to raise the Egyptian flag at such an address;
- Not all the Coptic Orthodox faithful, particularly those outside Egypt (but it is also true to a lesser extent for those inside Egypt), are Egyptian. First, there are Copts who emigrated from Egypt and went to other countries and became citizens of these countries; some kept a dual nationality, but many abandoned their previous Egyptian nationality and have now single nationality of their adoptive countries. These are not tiny numbers but in millions across the globe, including in Sudan, Ethiopia, and the various countries in the West and elsewhere. Second, there are many followers of the Coptic Orthodox Church who come altogether from non-Coptic roots, and have joined our Church for diver reasons. These have nothing to do with the Egyptian state or its flag.
- Raising the Egyptian flag in ecclesiastical occasions is inappropriate, for the Church is not part of any state but is universal in its message, scope and outlook. It should resist being seen as part of the structure of any state, let alone a state which is predominantly non-Christian.
- There is danger of the Coptic Orthodox Church losing its spiritual independence and becoming subservient to the Egyptian state.
Again, I say this with all due respect to Pope Tawadros II, but I though the appearance of the Egyptian flag while he was making an address to the faithful, many of them belong secularly to other nationalities, and outside Egypt, is inappropriate, controversial and divisive. But its most serious effect may be the weakening of the Church by making it an appendage of the secular state.
I have never seen any Christian leader while addressing their faithful followers raising the flag of the state in which the headquarter of the ecclesiastical body resides. For instance, when the Anglican Church Archbishop addresses his congregation, whether inside the UK or outside it, he never raises the British flag. Neither do the Russian Patriarch, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Roman Pope, or any other. Pope Tawadros has Egyptian nationality as an individual and citizen in Egypt; but the Coptic Orthodox Church is neither Egyptian nor belong to any state. The Egyptian state interference in the Coptic Church affairs must be resisted by all means. The Church must not be a department of the Egyptian state.