by Maria Asaad
Pope Tawadros II is the 118th Pope of Alexandria, leading the Coptic Orthodox Church and its congregation, mainly in Egypt. He was enthroned as Pope on November 19th 2012 at the Cathedral of St. Reweiss in Abbassiya, Cairo. The enthronement was headed and directed by H.E Metropolitan Pakhomius of Beheira. Many other metropolitans and bishops of the Coptic Church were in attendance, alongside many delegates of Christian Churches.
Pope Tawadros was born on November 4th, 1952 as Wagih Sobhy Baky Soliman in Mansoura. His father was an engineer and his family moved around during his childhood from Mansoura to Sohag, and then to Damanhour.
In 1975, Pope Tawadros received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Alexandria University and earned a fellowship for the World Health Organization from the British International Health Institute in England in 1985. He attended the Coptic Seminary and graduated in 1983. He then worked as a manager in a pharmaceutical company in Damanhour that was owned by the Ministry of Health.
The life of Pope Tawadros has always revolved around the church, being grounded and committed to his ministry and service. Since his youth he wished to live the life of monasticism. On August 20th 1986, he entered the Monastery of St. Pishoy in Wadi Elnatroun and remained a brother for two years. He was then ordained as a monk on July 21st 1988, and a year later was ordained a priest on December 23rd 1989. A couple of months after, on February 15th 1990, Pope Tawadros started his service with the Metropolitan Pakhomius of Beheira. He was ordained a bishop on June 15th 1997 by the Late Pope Shenouda III as a General Bishop assisting Metropolitan Pakhomius. Tawadros’ main focus was on serving the younger generation, predominantly children in country-wide festivals and being in charge of the children’s committee in the Holy Synod. He also wrote and published twelve books before assuming his papacy.
Since becoming Pope, he has been active in his ministry, this includes conducting visits to represent the Coptic Orthodox church in a number of countries around the world. One of his first visits was on 8th May 2013 where he met with Pope Francis, bishop of Rome and supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, in Vatican City. This was a monumental and historic moment for the world to witness, as it was the first meeting of the two recently elected church leaders and only the second gathering of popes in Italy in 1500 years. The two patriarchs held a shared prayer together followed by a reception with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and other dicasteries of the Roman Curia. During his time in Rome, the Coptic Pope also took the opportunity to visit the Coptic community in the region.
Another very memorable meeting and that took place very recently during Pope Tawadros’ leadership was his visit from Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salam. The Crown Prince is the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit St Mark’s Cathedral since its establishment in 1968.
He was welcomed very warmly by Pope Tawadros and the rest of the Egyptian nation, with banners and posters reading “Welcome to your second country” and “Saudi and Egypt are one hand, one nation.” The Pope described the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “pleasant, open-minded, cultured and visionary,” while Mohammed bin Salman expressed that he is grateful for the peaceful response of the Egyptian Church regarding the recent terrorist attacks targeting the Christians in Egypt.
Pope Tawadros’ stance on the political state of Egypt is that the church should hold no direct political role, as this should be reserved for Egypt’s political parties. He stated that the church should only play a “spiritual and social role,” noting that any other interferences could lead to potential disturbances within society.
The Pope believes that as long as Egypt is ruled with justice, there is no need to fear political leaders or the decisions they make. His view on the revolution that took place over the space of approximately three years is that the nation wanted to see certain changes and objectives met. The on-going changes in the country, in regards to policies and leaderships, will hopefully continue to satisfy and keep the people at ease and rest.
Pope Tawadros has also noted that Copts had emigrated from Egypt because “they are afraid,” stressing that Egyptian society should provide them with reasons to stay. He also delivered a message to the nation’s Coptic-Christians, saying: “Egypt is our beloved homeland in which Jesus lived, so it is very precious.” As for the forced displacement of Egyptian Copts, he said, “The state should protect all of its citizens, Christian and Muslim alike.”