VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Retired Bishop Antonios Naguib of Minya of the Copts was elected new patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts.
The new patriarch is replacing Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, 86, who had presented his resignation to Benedict XVI, the Vatican press office announced today.
The new patriarch, 71, was elected by the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Coptic Church, meeting in St. Joseph’s Convent of the Egyptian Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Cairo on March 20, as established by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
The Pope has given assent to the election.
Egypt’s Catholic Copts number about 250,000, a small minority in a country of 74 million inhabitants, 94% of whom are Muslims and most of the rest Orthodox Copts.
The Coptic Church (known as Orthodox) remained apart from Rome following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. It is led today by Pope Shenouda III.
In 1741, a Coptic bishop in Jerusalem converted to Catholicism and was named by Pope Benedict XIV apostolic vicar of the small Coptic community. In 1895, Pope Leo XIII re-established the Catholic-Coptic Patriarchate.
Studied in Rome
The Catholic-Coptic Church runs 170 educational institutions, the majority of whose students are Muslims.
Antonios Naguib entered the seminary of Maadi in Cairo, and later studied theology at the Urbanian College in Rome from 1953 to 1958.
Ordained a priest in 1960, after a year as parish priest in Minya, he returned to Rome to obtain a licentiate in theology (1962) and another in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1964).
He taught this subject at the Patriarchal Seminary of Maadi until his election as bishop of Minya in July 1977. He submitted his resignation as bishop of Minya in September 2002 to take a period of rest.
The Coptic Church was founded by the martyr Mark between A.D. 40 and 60 in Alexandria.