THE COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH OF EGYPT
The Coptic Church is the Egyptian Church. Copt and aygipt are one word. The Coptic Church began its history as established by St. Mark the Evangelist in the first century of Christianity. It is now more than twenty centuries old. We notice that in the Old Testament there is a prophecy concerning the Coptic Church. As it is written in Isaiah, chapter 19, “There will be an altar in the midst of Egypt.”
Egypt was blessed by the visit of Our Lord, and it was the only country in the world, except for his birthland, that Our Lord visited. Many miracles took place there during the visit of the Holy Family and many places were blessed. We built many churches in the places where the Holy Family lived. Those churches are holy places visited by people from all over the world.
The Church of Egypt was then established by St. Mark the Evangelist. His martyrdom also took place in Egypt and the first church was built in Alexandria at the beginning of the second half of the first century. St. Mark established the School of Alexandria in the first century, and thus our Coptic Church was concerned with Christian education from the very beginning of its foundation.
The Church of Alexandria, that is the Coptic Church, is one of the four most ancient churches in the world. The mother church of Christianity is the Church of Jerusalem, where Christianity began. The other three churches are the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Rome, and the Church of Antioch. The Church of Ephesus was established by St. John the Evangelist, and the Church of Constantinople was founded in the Fourth Century.
The Church of Alexandria was also the source of monasticism which began during the last years of the third century and flourished in the fourth century. St. Anthony, the world’s first monk, was a Copt from Upper Egypt. St. Pachomius, who established the rules of monasticism, was also a Copt.
Monasticism flourished in Egypt. There were hundreds of monasteries, and thousands of cells and caves scattered throughout the Egyptian hills. John Cassian said that a person traveling from Alexandria in the north to Luxor in the south could hear the monks, hermits and anchorites praying and singing hymns in the deserts, monasteries and caves along the entire route.
The world’s first anchorite was St. Paul, the Egyptian hermit. He lived without seeing the face of any other man for about eighty years. Egyptian monasticism entailed a life of prayer, contemplation, solitude, worship, and purity of heart. Monks had nothing in their minds, hearts and feelings except God alone. They lived a calm and quiet life abiding in the Lord.
The Coptic Church believes in the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, as equal to each other, in one unity; Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world. Less change has taken place in the Church of Egypt than in any other, both in ritual and doctrine, and the succession of Coptic Patriarchs, bishops, priests, and deacons has been continuous.
The Coptic Church recognizes Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Penance, Marriage, Unction of the Sick, and Holy Orders.
The term “Orthodox” refers to the preservation of the “Original Faith” by the Copts who, throughout the ages, defended the Old Creed against the numerous attacks aimed at it.
The Orthodox Christians of Egypt, the Sudan Armenia, a part of Syria and India, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the main followers of the Oriental Orthodox Faith. More and more are joining the Faith in other places, particularly in Africa and Europe.
There are currently over 12 million Copts living in Egypt and over 1.5 million Coptic immigrants living in The United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia.
HIS HOLINESS POPE SHENOUDA III
Pope of Alexandria and
Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III is the 117th Pope in the unbroken chain of Coptic Patriarchs; St. Mark was the first Patriarch of Alexandria. His Holiness was enthroned Pope of Alexandria on the 14th of November 1971.
His Holiness has been very active in the Ecumenical Movement and has been working hard for Christian Unity ever since his enthronement. He was the first Coptic Patriarch to meet with the Roman Catholic Pope after a period of 1,600 years of separation. His Holiness visited Pope Paul VI in May 1973 and had a very successful dialogue with him on Christian Unity.
His Holiness was the first Coptic Patriarch to visit Constantinople since 451 AD in 1972; He met with the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of the Byzantine Churches. He also visited the Patriarch of Moscow, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Antioch along with the Catholic Patriarch in Damascus.
The Coptic Church at present is taking an active part in the leadership of the World Council of Churches under his guidance. Delegates from the Coptic Church have been sent to participate in a number of important International Conferences.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III laid the cornerstone of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Troy, Michigan on May 1, 1977. The actual building began on October 24, 1978 and was completed on May, 1979. The first celebration of the Eucharist took place on May 8, 1979, the Feast Day of Saint Mark the Evangelist.
The Church serves the Coptic Congregation in the entire State of Michigan – about 450 families in all. An Arabic/Coptic Liturgy is celebrated at 7am and is followed by an Arabic sermon. An English/Coptic Liturgy is celebrated at 8am each Sunday and is followed by an English sermon. Sunday School is held for everyone from toddlers to college and recent graduates. Youth meetings for High School and College/Graduate aged youth and also Deacon Hymn’s lessons are held on Friday and Saturday nights at the Church.
On October 12, 1994, His Holiness consecrated St. Mary and St. George’s Alter. On the same day, His holiness laid the cornerstone for a new Church and Sunday School classes. A Coptic School was established (St. Mary Coptic Development Center), which was personally opened and dedicated by His Holiness on August 21, 2003.
The Church was served by Archpriest Fr. Mekhail Melika from 1976-1977. Archpriest Fr. Roufail Mikhail was sent from Cairo, Egypt in 1977, by His Holiness Pope Shenouda. He served the flourishing Church in Michigan for 22 years until he passed away in 1998. Today, serving the Church from 1991 to the present is Archpriest Fr. Mina D. Essak and from 2001 to the present is Fr. Maximus Habib.