|Doctrines|| ||The Coptic Orthodox
Church is one of the five so-called monophysite churches, characterised by
their acceptance of the first three ecumenical councils and rejection of
the Council of Chalcedon (451). In contrast to Chalcedon's doctrine that
Christ is one person existing in two natures the Coptic Church affirms
that Christ's humanity cannot be separated from his divinity. After the
incarnation, the thoughts and actions of Jesus were those of a single
unitary being. This doctrine has sometimes been described as
monophysitism because it ascribes to Christ one nature.|
|History|| ||The Coptic Church is the
ancient church of Egypt. According to tradition its founder was Mark the
Evangelist. The church became separated from mainstream Christianity
after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Because of their rejection of
Chalcedon the Copts were subjected to a wave of persecution by the
Byzantine empire. In response to this persecution the Copts elected their
own national patriarch. The Islamic conquest of Egypt in 641 relieved the
church from Greek persecution but led gradually to the assimilation of
most Egyptians into the Islamic faith. During the 18th and 19th centuries
the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church sought unsuccessfully
to merge with the Copts. Since 1954 the Coptic Church has been active in
the World Council of Churches.|
|Symbols|| ||Ostrich eggs hang from the
vault of Coptic churches to symbolise steadfast watchfulness. They bring
to mind the way the ostrich buries her eggs in the sand and keeps her eyes
fixed on the spot.|
The bread of the eucharist consists of small round cakes with a cross stamped in the middle surrounded by twelve smaller crosses. The eucharistic wine is unfermented grape juice. The main utensil of the eucharistic celebration is the ark, a cubical box with paintings of the Last Supper, the Virgin Mary, an angel and the patron saint of the church. The vestments used by the priests are always white, symbolising purity and chastity.
|Adherents|| ||There is considerable
controversy surrounding the size of the membership of the Coptic church.
According to government figures there are 2 million Copts in Egypt.
According to Coptic sources there are some 7 million members in Egypt.|
There are about 10 million Copts world-wide with followers in Egypt, the Sudan, other African countries, the U.S.A. (115,000), Canada, Europe and the Middle East (Europa Publications Limited 1995, 1:1073, 2:3289).
Mark Cathedral, POB 9035, Ana Ruess, 222 Ramses St, Abbasiya, Cairo.|