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Voting for a new pope

October 29, 2012

A council of more than 2,000 Egyptian Coptic Christians will vote for a new leader on Monday. The new pope will be tasked with leading the region's largest Christian minority through Egypt's post-revolution era.

Candidates for leading the Coptic Church Father Bakhomius of Virgin Mary in Wadi Natroun (L), Father Seraphim of Virgin Mary (R) and Father Rafael from St Marina Monastery (C) talk during the mass held at the Klod Bek Coptic Church in Cairo October 22, 2012. The mass was held to introduce the five bishops nominated to succeed the late Pope Shenouda III who died on March 17, 2012 at the age of 88. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: RELIGION)
Image: Reuters

The ballot comes after the death of Pope Shenouda III, who headed the church for four decades before his death in March. The new leader will become the 118th head of the Coptic Church.

Whoever is elected to succeed Shenouda will be in charge of leading the region's largest Christian minority through increased sectarian tension in Egypt's post-revolution era.

The council - made up of senior clergy, current and former Coptic officials, journalists, local advisers and MPs - will choose between five candidates: three bishops and two monks. The names of the three receiving the highest number of votes will be written on separate pieces of paper and placed into a box on the altar of Saintt Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

On November 4, a blindfolded child will select one piece of paper. The new Pope will then be enthroned in a ceremony on November 18.

The five candidates are Bishop Rafael, 54, a medical doctor and current assistant bishop for central Cairo; Bishop Tawadros, 60, of the Nile Delta province of Beheira; Father Rafael Ava Mina, 70; Father Seraphim al-Souriani, 53 and Father Pachomious al-Suriani, 49.

Coptic Christians make up between 6 and 10 percent of Egypt's total population of 83 million. Many are concerned about persecution resulting from the rise of Islamists in Egypt following the election of Mohamed Morsi. This concern comes despite the new president's promise to be a leader "for all Egyptians."

jr/dr (AFP, dpa)