CAIRO (AP) — The new pope of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic church was enthroned on Sunday in an elaborate ceremony lasting nearly four hours, attended by the nation’s Muslim prime minister and a host of Cabinet ministers and politicians.
Pope Tawadros II, 60, was elected Nov. 4, but the official enthronement ceremony was held Sunday at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo. He replaced Shenouda III, who died in March after leading the ancient church for 40 years.
The packed cathedral repeatedly erupted into applause as the ceremony progressed. The ceremony’s climax came when the papal crown was placed on Tawadros’ head before he sat on the throne of St. Mark, the Coptic church’s founding saint.
Tawadros did not address the televised ceremony, but had a brief speech read on his behalf by one of the church’s leaders in which he pledged to work for the good of Egypt, with its Muslims and Christians alike.
Egypt’s Christians make up about 10 percent of the nation’s estimated 83 million people, making them the largest single Christian community in the Middle East.
Christians have long complained of discrimination, particularly in the last four decades as the country’s Muslim majority moved toward religious conservatism. The rise to power of Islamists after the ouster nearly two years ago of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak has deepened their concerns, amid increasing attacks targeting their churches and businesses.
Catholic Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of congratulations to Tawadros. Vatican Radio said he expressed hope that relations between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church will continue to grow both `’in a fraternal spirit of collaboration” as well as `’through a deepening of the theological dialogue.”