What is the Coptic Church?

There is a massive one near my house, and it looks so majestic. What is this “Coptic Church”?

I found out that they have a pope, H. H. Pope Shenouda III. Is this Coptic faith, which has the 7 sacraments part of the Orthodox Church? Is it a schismatic church? Why haven’t I ever heard of their pope?

Are their sacraments considered valid, so basically do they have apostolic succession?

The Coptic Church is the major historic representative of Egyptian Christianity. It went into schism in the 5-6th centuries as part of the Christological controversy, along with the Armenians and the “Jacobites” of Syria. It does not accept the Council of Chalcedon (or any of the subsequent ones, obviously). The split was ethnic/political as well as theological. The Copts represented native Egyptian Christianity, while the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (in communion with Constantinople) represented and still represents mostly Greek-speakers (though in modern times it has engaged in missionary activity throughout Africa). There is a Coptic Catholic Church, made up of Copts who have reunited with Rome. More recently, the Copts have engaged in dialogue both with Constantinople and with Rome–the consensus appears to be that the Copts are not in fact heretics and that the historic differences are largely verbal. (There are many both in Catholicism and Orthodoxy who would dispute this, however.)

In Christ,

Edwin

[quote=Contarini]The Coptic Church is the major historic representative of Egyptian Christianity. It went into schism in the 5-6th centuries as part of the Christological controversy, along with the Armenians and the “Jacobites” of Syria. It does not accept the Council of Chalcedon (or any of the subsequent ones, obviously). The split was ethnic/political as well as theological. The Copts represented native Egyptian Christianity, while the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (in communion with Constantinople) represented and still represents mostly Greek-speakers (though in modern times it has engaged in missionary activity throughout Africa). There is a Coptic Catholic Church, made up of Copts who have reunited with Rome. More recently, the Copts have engaged in dialogue both with Constantinople and with Rome–the consensus appears to be that the Copts are not in fact heretics and that the historic differences are largely verbal. (There are many both in Catholicism and Orthodoxy who would dispute this, however.)

In Christ,

Edwin
[/quote]

Thats interesting, i never heard of a Coptic Church within the Catholic Church

It’s not very big–243,000 members in Egypt and 10,000 elsewhere, according to this site.

Edwin

Here is a very thorough site describing my church.

coptic.net/EncyclopediaCoptica/

What is the name of the church near you, or what city is it in? (Just out of curiosity).

I found out that they have a pope, H. H. Pope Shenouda III. Is this Coptic faith, which has the 7 sacraments part of the Orthodox Church? Is it a schismatic church? Why haven’t I ever heard of their pope?

Are their sacraments considered valid, so basically do they have apostolic succession?

Yes, we do have a pope–H.H. Pope Shenouda III, Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria. Unlike the Catholic Pope, we do not consider him to be head of all Orthodox Christians, yet only the Coptic Orthodox Christians.

Yes, we do have the same 7 sacraments. Which in general are practiced the same way as the Catholic church with a few small differences. I do believe that the Catholics consider our sacraments valid, but a Catholic can answer that better.

As for apostolic succession, our Pope is the 117th successor of St. Mark the Apostle who introduced christianity into Egypt somewhere around 50AD. (The date varies between 42AD and 68AD–but we know it was prior to 68AD because that is when he was martyred.

We are part of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which seperated from the Eastern Orthodox churches in 451AD. Which while some believe was a justified seperation, others, like myself, would say it was more a matter of semantics and politics–as we do not believe what we were accused of at the time.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

God Bless,
Elizabeth

[quote=Catholic Tom]Are their sacraments considered valid, so basically do they have apostolic succession?
[/quote]

Tom,

The Catholic Church considers the Coptic Orthodox Church to have valid apostolic succession and that their sacraments are indeed valid.

[quote=Catholic Tom]I never heard of a Coptic Church within the Catholic Church
[/quote]

The Coptic Catholic Church is one of the 22 Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches that, together with the Latin Church, constitute the Catholic Catholic. The site to which Edwin linked provides an excellent summary of it.

The site that Elizabeth linked is the most comprehensive on-line source on Coptic Orthodoxy.

Many years,

Neil

Are not the Copts, be they Orthodox or Catholic, of the same branch of eastern spirituality as the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox and Catholics? If I am not mistaken they are all of the Ge’ez tradition. I will check out both sites listed above.

[quote=Catholic Tom]There is a massive one near my house, and it looks so majestic. What is this “Coptic Church”?
[/quote]

“Coptic” is from “Koptikos”, the Greek for the native Egyptian word for “Egyptian” - it is simply the Egyptian Church, more specifically, the Egyptian Church since the Council of Chalcedon (451), which was rejected in Egypt, in large part because it was thought to be consecrating theological formulas which were heretical; it was thought to be betraying the teaching of Ephesus in 431, which owed a lot to the thinking of Cyril of Alexandria (Patriarch from 412 to 444.) So there was a considerable element of national feeling: the Egyptians, and the Roman Empire (which finally went under in the West in 480) did not get on very well. The Church in Constantinople was seen as the religious arm of the Emperor’s “political” policies (politics and religion in this setting cannot really be distinguished): so dislike & resentment of Imperial prefects and other officials easily rubbed off onto ecclesiastics sponsored by the Emperor.

The Egyptians, and others, did not regard the adherents of Chalcedon as Catholics - they called them “Melchites”; which translates as roughly equivalent to “Imperialists” - the party of those who shared the doctrine of the Emperor in Constantinople (the Western Emperor did not really count by then.). In fact, Chalcedon caused a hell of a lot of trouble - ultimately, the Church lost not only Egypt, but Persia, Armenia, and IIRC the Church in what is now Iraq. The Persian Church reckons (or did reckon) its calendar from what we think of as AD 552 - so the troubles after Chalcedon are something to keep in mind for the next time someone trashes Vatican II because of what some see as its bad fruits; that reasoning, if applied consistently as it should be, would scuttle a lot of Councils that such Catholics hold on to like limpets.

The Copts are very interesting - in the Liturgy, they use rattles: which are left-overs from the worship of the cat-goddess Bastet (Christianity in Egypt blended in with a lot of older religion, as did Islam later on, when it arrived in (IIRC) 638); it’s one of the more obvious survivals into Christian use of things from the pre-Christian past. ##

The Copts are very interesting - in the Liturgy, they use rattles: which are left-overs from the worship of the cat-goddess Bastet (Christianity in Egypt blended in with a lot of older religion, as did Islam later on, when it arrived in (IIRC) 638); it’s one of the more obvious survivals into Christian use of things from the pre-Christian past.

Rattles?? :nope: We do not use rattles in our liturgy! Cat Goddess? Are you serious? Where are you getting this information from?:confused: :rolleyes:

God Bless,
Elizabeth

[quote=Coptic]Here is a very thorough site describing my church.

coptic.net/EncyclopediaCoptica/

[/quote]

Coptic,

I was worried to see that the Coptic Church allows abortion…

The Church does not have (and actually refuses to canonize) an official position vis-a-vis some controversial issues (e.g. abortion). While the church has clear teachings about such matters (e.g. abortion interfers with God’s will), it is the position of the Church that such matters are better resolved on a case-by-case basis by the father of confession, as opposed to having a blanket canon that makes a sin of such practices.
Do you not follow the canon of Saint Basil? He says that both the woman who procures an abortion and the one who provides the means are guilty of murder.

Abouna Ambrose,

The only stance I have ever heard my church take on abortion is that the only time it is allowed is when the mother’s health is at risk as a result of the pregnancy…i.e. she will die as a result.

So no, we do not condon abortion, but as this article suggests, there is no official statement on it.

Yes, we do believe that abortion is murder.

God Bless,
Elizabeth

[quote=Coptic]Rattles?? :nope: We do not use rattles in our liturgy! Cat Goddess? Are you serious? Where are you getting this information from?:confused: :rolleyes:

God Bless,
Elizabeth
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It used to be so.

. Consisting of bars fitted loosely into a metal frame that rattle when the handle is shaken, the sistrum was the instrument sacred to Hathor and other goddesses such as Isis and Bastet. From Egypt it spread to Greece, Rome, and wherever else the cults of these Egyptian goddesses penetrated. In Western Europe, Isidor of Seville (560-636) mentioned its use (Sententiae de musica), as did Pseudo-Odo (Odo of Cluny, 879-942). According to Hickmann, Sistrum****the sistrum was also used by the Copts for many centuries.

This is from a page on Coptic Hymns. I did not realise that its use had been discontinued - such, it would appear, is the case.

There’s nothing embarrassing in the existence of pre-Christian things in the Liturgy or elsewhere; what matters is how such things are used by Christians. The ankh did not vanish when the Pharaohs did - it survived, to be used centuries afterwards in Christian art, with a Christian meaning. One can perfectly well argue, that instruments formerly used in the worship of goddesses should by rights be used in the worship of the True God instead. Why should our pre-Christian ancestors have all the best tunes ?

I’m not relying on this page alone; I’ve read about these things from different sources - in books on the Liturgy, books on the end of paganism, books on Egyptian religion. I’m not making it up , or relying on the Net alone (that would be crazy.) ##

[quote=Coptic]Abouna Ambrose,

The only stance I have ever heard my church take on abortion is that the only time it is allowed is when the mother’s health is at risk as a result of the pregnancy…i.e. she will die as a result.

So no, we do not condon abortion, but as this article suggests, there is no official statement on it.

Yes, we do believe that abortion is murder.

God Bless,
Elizabeth
[/quote]

I am pleased to hear it. Now someone should write and tell the Coptic Encyclopedia people that they are grossly misrepresenting the Coptic Church’s teaching on abortion, and right on the front page of the web site.

Hey, Elizabeth, welcome, so glad you are here, would be very interested to know more accurate details of liturgy in your Church, also where in US are Coptic Christians to be found. thanks.

Gottle of Gear,
It’s not a matter of being embarassed of the use of pre-Christian things, yet more so just the misrepresentation. You made it sound in your original post as if we worship some Cat Goddess. As the article in link from Coptichymns.net reads, the only two instruments we use nowadays is the triangle and cymbol.

Abouna,

I am pleased to hear it. Now someone should write and tell the Coptic Encyclopedia people that they are grossly misrepresenting the Coptic Church’s teaching on abortion, and right on the front page of the web site.

I agree. I think the statement made on that site can appear to some that we condon abortion when that is hardly the case.

Hey, Elizabeth, welcome, so glad you are here, would be very interested to know more accurate details of liturgy in your Church, also where in US are Coptic Christians to be found. thanks.

Coptic Christians can be found in almost any state. We have a large population in NY, NJ, Canada and California where we also have a monastery. This site here has a directory if you were interested in finding one near you: mycopticchurch.com/churches/.

We have about 22 churches and a theological collage in Australia, and a presence in Holland, Brazil, Germany, France, Austria, Namibia, and others in Africa and Asia. In Britan, there is a church known as the British Orthodox Church which is a part of the Coptic Church. There are over 9 million copts in Egypt, and well over 1.5 million immigrants.

Did you have any specific questions in mind? Please feel free to ask.

God Bless,
Elizabeth

Thanks for the thread! I’ve wondered what the Coptic Church is and the info provided here is very interesting. I think I will check out the links provided, too, thank you!

[quote=Coptic]Gottle of Gear,
It’s not a matter of being embarassed of the use of pre-Christian things, yet more so just the misrepresentation. You made it sound in your original post as if we worship some Cat Goddess. As the article in link from Coptichymns.net reads, the only two instruments we use nowadays is the triangle and cymbol.
[/quote]

“Nowadays” being the crucial word. This does not alter the fact that the sistrum was also in use, formerly - and that statement was what you objected to (or found surprising, at least). I did not misrepresent anything - I was obviously wrong (as I’ve admitted already) in thinking the sistrum was still in use; but only in that. It would be very interesting to discover when and why it ceased to be used in the Liturgy.

I can’t imagine how you got the impression that you were being accused of Bastet-worship :frowning: - I did not say that the use of the rattle (AKA sistrum) means that Copts worship Bastet etc., or have at any time done so - I said it was derived from from it. Which is something utterly different.

Cat-goddess-worship is, after all, not exactly compatible with zeal for the Council of Ephesus. And as the latter is a fact of Egyptian Church history - that was mentioned at length - the former hardly can be. ##

[quote=dcmac]Are not the Copts, be they Orthodox or Catholic, of the same branch of eastern spirituality as the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox and Catholics? If I am not mistaken they are all of the Ge’ez tradition. I will check out both sites listed above.
[/quote]

Donnchadh,

The Copts, Ethiopians, and Eritreans are all of the Alexandrean Rite. The Copts are of the Coptic Tradition within the Rite, while the Ethiopians and Eritreans are of the Ge’ez tradition.

Many years,

Neil

Thats interesting that they do in fact still retain valid sacraments, which along with valid apostolic succession in my mind gives credibility to the church.

My question now is, what was the main issue that forced seperated the Coptics into their own seperate tradition apart from Catholicism?

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