|Introduction to the Coptic Church
The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in the name of Jesus Christ by St. Mark the Evangelist in the city of Alexandria around 43-61 A.D. It is one of the oldest four Churches in the world: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The Church adheres to the Nicene Creed, also known as the 'Orthodox Creed', and the 'Athanasian Creed'.
It was St. Athanasius, the 20th Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, who participated in the formulation of the Creed. The term "orthodox" refers to the preservation of the "Original Faith" by the Copts who, throughout the ages, defended the original faith against numerous heresies and handed it down from generation to generation without any change.
In the land of the Pharaohs, the ancient Egyptians believed in life after death. They also believed in judgment after death, which paved the way for Christianity to spread rapidly in Egypt upon hearing Saint Mark's preaching. The Egyptians easily related to Saint Mark's teaching about the Holy Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His Second Coming to judge the living and the dead.
In a relatively short time Egypt became a Christian land, which was called "Aigyptos" in Greek. Many Egyptians converted to Islam, however, when Egypt came under the Arabic rule in the 7th Century AD and mingled in marriage with the Arabs. Being unable to pronounce the word "Aigyptos", the Arabs corrupted it and pronounced it as "Gypt" or "Kipt". The Egyptians who remained Christians preserved their Egyptian bloodline and therefore, were called Copt.
In the early church, Alexandria was considered the seat of the highest learning and scholarship center in the world. The famous 'Theological School of Alexandria' with its leading theologians, philosophers, scholars, and teachers was established in the 1st century. By the 4th century, Alexandria became the seat of Christian learning of the entire world, proudly hosting the 'Library of Alexandria', the largest in the world at that time.
Egypt is the only land in the world to be blessed and honored by a long visit of the 'Holy Family' (about 3 years). "When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young child [Jesus] and His mother [Mary] by night, and departed into Egypt. And remained there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying 'Out of Egypt have I called my Son'" (Matt 2: 14-15). There are many prophecies about the spread of Christianity in Egypt: "Blessed be my people Egypt" (Isaiah 19:24); "On that day, there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt" (Isaiah 19:19); and "Behold, the Lord rides upon a swift cloud and shall come to Egypt" (Isaiah 19:1).
The Coptic Church is deeply spiritual and conservative. It kept the doctrine and the rituals as handed down by St. Mark and the successive Popes until today. No changes have taken place in the Church of Egypt compared to any other Church in the world.
The succession of Coptic patriarchs, bishops, priests, and deacons has been continuous. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th successor of St. Mark is the present Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the Sea of St. Mark.