The Coptic Orthodox Christian minority in Egypt has enthroned its new leader in Cairo. The opulent ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Hisham Kandil of Egypt's new Islamist-led government.
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church installed Tawadros II as its pope on Sunday during a ceremony steeped in ritual at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.
Coptic adherents constitute 10 percent of the Egyptian population, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. For years, Coptics have endured sectarian attacks, some fatal.
Dozens of Coptic priests and bishops offered prayers for the new 60-year-old pope as he received a crown and crucifix from Bishop Bakhomious.
Bakhomious had acted as interim leader when Shenouda III died aged 88 in March after leading Coptics for four decades.
Sunday's ceremony featured chanting, incense and opulently embellished robes.
"We chose him because he is man who is obedient to God," Bakhomious said. "God had listened to our prayers and did not wish to leave us orphans for long."
Tawadros reaches out
Pope Tawadros II, who was chosen as the church's 118th leader on November 4, has stressed his wish for good relations with Muslims in his official biography but also warned that a Muslim Egypt enshrined as a "religious state" would be unacceptable.
His role in contacts with Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi is likely to be soon tested. A group of technical advisers tasked with helping to draw up Egypt's new constitution quit on Saturday, saying their voices were not being heard.
For months, liberals, moderates and Islamists have been tussling over a draft constitution seen as vital since the topping of ex-president Hosni Mubarak last year during the so-called Arab Spring. The process requires a new constitution to be in place before the dissolution of parliament and new elections.
Morsi was noticeably absent during Tawadros' ceremony but his prime minister, Hisham Kandil, did attend. Other officials and dignatories also attended.
Coptic Christianity dates back to Saint Mark, the author of one of the four Gospels and predates the arrival of Islam in Egypt.
Before being ordained, Tawadros was a trained pharmacist.
sej/ipj (AFP, Reuters)