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Pope Recognizes New Coptic Catholic Patriarch

18 Jan 2013 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI formally welcomed the election of the new head of the Coptic Catholic Church, 57-year-old Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria.

Members of the Coptic Catholic Synod of Bishops elected the former bishop of Minya, Egypt, during a meeting in Cairo on 15 January.

As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, newly elected Patriarch Sidrak formally requested communion with the pope. The Vatican announced on 18 January that the pope had extended “ecclesial communion” to him.

Choosing a successor to 77-year-old Cardinal Antonios Naguib was the primary agenda item at the January synod. The cardinal suffered a stroke on 31 December 2011, and has had a slow recovery, including continuing paralysis and difficulty speaking. Pope Benedict accepted his resignation for health reasons.

Cardinal Naguib was succeeded by the same bishop who earlier succeeded him as bishop of Minya, a city in central Egypt known for its strong Christian communities. About 50 percent of the residents belong to the Orthodox or Catholic churches, while in Egypt as a whole about 90 percent of the population is Muslim.

Patriarch Sidrak was born on 19 August 1955 in Beni Shoqair, and prepared for the priesthood at the Coptic Catholic seminary in Maadi. Ordained to the priesthood in 1980, he served at a parish in Cairo before being sent to Rome.

He earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and returned to Egypt to teach at the Maadi seminary. He served as rector of the seminary from 1990 to 2001, as well as serving as director of the Sakakini catechetical institute and as general secretary of catechetical education for the Coptic Catholic Church.

After just 10 months as pastor of the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, he was elected bishop of Minya in 2002.