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Nashville’s Coptic Catholic Community

Cardinal Antonios Naguib, the Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, seated at right, concelebrates Mass at St. Patrick Church in Nashville, Tenn., 23 July. Cardinal Naguib visited Nashville as part of a tour of Coptic Catholic communities across the United States and to help build the Coptic community in the diocese. There are five established Coptic Catholic congregations in the U.S., in Los Angeles, New Jersey and Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: CNS/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register) 

15 Aug 2011 – by Andy Telli

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — The small community of Coptic Catholics in Nashville, consisting of about 40 families who have moved to the city from their native Egypt, threw open their arms wide to welcome Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch of the worldwide Coptic Catholic Church.

“It is a great hope, a great pleasure to have him (the patriarch) here,” said Moussa Tawadrous, a leader of the local community.

He will “help build our Coptic Catholic Church in Nashville,” Tawadrous told the Tennessee Register, the diocesan newspaper.

Cardinal Naguib was in town the weekend of July 24 as part of a tour of Coptic Catholic communities across the United States.

The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate his spiritual proximity to the local people and “to hear about their situation, their needs and problems,” he said, “to show them we are always supporting them, doing what we can to remain in link with them.”

There are five Coptic congregations in the United States, Cardinal Naguib said: Los Angeles, New Jersey and Brooklyn, N.Y., and two smaller communities in formation, one in Nashville and one in Boston.

Though small, the Coptic Catholic Church, one of the Eastern Catholic churches, is one of the oldest Christian communities.

Based in Alexandria, Egypt, the community was established by St. Mark in the first century and was home to some of the early fathers of the church, including St. Alexander, St. Cyril and St. Athanasius. In the fifth century, the church in Alexandria split with Rome, but their union was later restored.

“We are one in the faith, one in the highest authority, the Holy Father,” Cardinal Naguib explained.

Currently, Father Youssef Boushara, a Coptic Catholic priest in Brooklyn, travels to Nashville once every two or three months to celebrate Mass for the local community.

Finding a priest who could live in Nashville would help nurture the faith of the Coptic Catholic immigrants here, Cardinal Naguib said.

A problem facing immigrant communities everywhere, Cardinal Naguib said, is that as the succeeding generations assimilate into their new culture, they lose a connection to the faith of their homeland.

While he was in Nashville, the cardinal also spoke about the situation in Egypt, saying, "We are living in a very critical period.”

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