What is the Coptic Orthodox Church?

Hi, does anybody here in this section of the forums attend a Coptic Orthodox Church? I"ll be attending one as a guest. I am a Roman Catholic and have never been to a Eastern Catholic Church before. Is there anything I should know beforehand?

Can I wear a Rosary and Crucifix? (I usually wear them underneath my shirt so it is not visible unless you really look at my neck lol)

I am a Baptized Catholic and never really followed my faith. Just last year I became a practicing Catholic. I did not even know the Eastern Catholic Church existed. After lots of reading on the Catholic Church I just found out about it.


You should probably know that there is a distinction between a “Coptic Orthodox” church and a “Coptic Catholic” church. Which one are you attending?

Eastern Catholicism is not the same thing as Eastern Orthodoxy.

This forum has a few members of both the Coptic Catholic Church, and the Coptic Orthodox Church, so they’ll be able to answer any and all questions you have, but you should clarify which of the two it is you are going to.


I’ll be attending this Church as a guest.

Sorry for the confusion! I though Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic are the same?

Hello to a fellow Bay Area resident :slight_smile:

This church is Orthodox, not Catholic. Eastern Orthodox are not in communion with Rome, Eastern Catholics are (hence, they are “Catholic,” not “Orthodox”).

I do not think it would be inappropriate for you to wear the articles of your faith to an Orthodox mass. Some people might mind, but most won’t.

Dzheremi is a Coptic Orthodox, so I’m sure he can provide you with more info.

I am not sure if it is licit for you (from a Catholic standpoint) to receive communion at an Orthodox mass. I believe you should also go to a Catholic mass tomorrow for the Eucharist. Not 100% sure on this, but that’s my gut feeling on the matter.

Should be a great learning experience though! Please share your thoughts on it afterward :slight_smile:

The Coptic Catholic Church was a Sui Juris Church started in Egypt by the Catholic Church for Copts, The Coptic Orthodox Church is the native Coptic Church in Egypt and is not in communion with Rome.

You need a dispensation from a priest in order to recieve Communian at this chuch.

As they are not Catholic, but still with valid orders…you still can not go up for Communion as it is the Coptic practise too, that only Orthodox can receive. Only in case of an emergency could a Catholic.

I do.

I"ll be attending one as a guest. I am a Roman Catholic and have never been to a Eastern Catholic Church before. Is there anything I should know beforehand?

The website you’ve linked to in your last post is a Coptic Orthodox Church, not Coptic Catholic. The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the non-Chalcedonian (popularly called ‘Oriental’) Orthodox Churches, not in communion with Rome, nor with Constantinople. Please do not approach the priest for communion. Communion in the Coptic Orthodox Church is for baptized members only.

Other than that, have a wonderful time. :slight_smile: Some things will probably feel familiar to you (Orientals cross themselves left-to-right just like the Latin Catholics do, not right-to-left like the Byzantines do), but much will not be. A few points might help you to have a more edifying experience:

  • Be prepared to stand A LOT (men will stand on the left, women on the right), but also don’t feel weird or bad about sitting down if you need to. The service is generally around three to three and a half hours, and the majority of it is standing, but people will understand if you need to sit, especially since you are a visitor who is not used to the Orthodox way of doing things.

  • Depending on the demographics of the congregation, the service may have some Arabic. It will also have also some Coptic, which is the traditional language of the Coptic (Egyptian) people since before the Arab invasion of the 7th century, and still survives as the liturgical language of the Church. You will not be expected to read the Arabic or Coptic, as the service books should provide trilingual (English-Arabic-Coptic) translations of the entire service, and there will probably also be a projector screen with all of the parts on it also in English, so you can follow along with that. Some phrases might be kind of neat to know, though (Copts love it when you can read/speak Coptic). Like when the priest says “Irinie Pasi” (Peace be with you), you say “Ke to pnevmati sou” (And with your spirit) – these two phrases are actually in Greek, not Coptic, since the Church was established in Alexandria, which was at that time (1st century AD) a Greek-speaking city. There is lots of Greek still in the liturgy, though the Coptic way of pronouncing it is different than how Greeks pronounce it.

  • When the priest goes up and down the isles of the church with the censer, he is blessing the church. He will also bless the people with a small hand cross he carries, by placing it on their slightly bowed heads and saying a short prayer. When he reaches you, make sure you are standing (if you were previously seated), bow your head slightly (maybe stand a few rows back so that you can see how other people do it if you’re nervous you might mess it up somehow) and receive the blessing.

  • The service will end with the sprinkling of holy water over the congregation. After this the priest will enter behind the curtain which shields the altar for a short period, and then emerge to distribute the blessed bread (what the Greeks call antidoron; the Copts call it orban). You are entirely welcome, encouraged even, to take what the priest offers you. Orban is for everyone to partake of.

  • After the service, there is the traditional “Agape” meal, which will probably consist of chicken, salad, beans, and bread (since the fast of St. Mary has just ended, we are back to eating non-fasting food for a while!). Or there might be some more “exotic” Egyptian dishes to try. Either way, this is the chance for everyone in the church to bug you with a million questions, since you’re a visitor and a non-Egyptian. :slight_smile: Just roll with it, and enjoy the food.

Can I wear a Rosary and Crucifix? (I usually wear them underneath my shirt so it is not visible unless you really look at my neck lol)

It should be fine, yeah.

I am a Baptized Catholic and never really followed my faith. Just last year I became a practicing Catholic. I did not even know the Eastern Catholic Church existed. After lots of reading on the Catholic Church I just found out about it.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is not within the Catholic communion. There is a Coptic Catholic Church, but it is very small (164K worldwide; the Coptic Orthodox are 8-12 million).

I pray that you will have a blessed visit. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I look forward to hearing about your experience.

Thanks for all that useful information, Dzheremi! It comes at a very appropriate time as I am also planning to attend a Coptic Orthodox Liturgy this very Sunday.


Ok, I see that there is a difference between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church.

But why is the word “Catholic” used in The Nicene Creed for the Coptic Orthodox Church?


Because the Orthodox, both Coptic and Eastern are more properly termed Orthodox Catholic Churches but due to the confusion this causes we generally don’t do it here or when Catholics in communion with Rome and the Orthodox are speaking together. Catholic also is used in the Anlican Church during the creed as well.

When the Nicene Creed was formulated, in the 4th century, there was simply the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ, which included Rome, Alexandria (Copts), Constantinople (Greeks/Byzantines), Antioch (Syriacs), etc… unfortunately, due to Christological disagreements at the Council of Chalcedon (held in the year 451), the Churches of Alexandria and Antioch (the spiritual ancestors of the modern Coptic and Syriac Orthodox Churches) severed communion with Rome (Latins - the spiritual ancestors of todays Latin or Roman Catholics) and Constantinople (the spiritual ancestors of todays Eastern/Byzantine Orthodox and Catholics). Constantinople, and the local churches in communion with her, and Rome broke communion many centuries later in the 11th century (though it was a gradual process). As a result of these sad divisions, there are three primary bodies that were once part of the ancient One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed:
-The Catholic Church (all of those churches that are in communion with Rome)
-The Eastern Orthodox Churches (those churches who practice the Byzantine Rite in communion with Constantinople)
-The Oriental Orthodox Churches (Copts, Syriacs, Armenians, etc - those churches who rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451).

Some members of these various Eastern and Oriental Churches, in later centuries, reconciled with Rome and became the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches. These Churches seek to hold on to the venerable traditions of their brothers and sisters in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches while fully belonging to the Catholic Church in communion with the Pope in Rome.

It is important to note that from a Catholic perspective, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches do have valid sacraments (unlike Protestants) - their eucharist is a true eucharist and their priests are true priests. For this reason, the Catechism states that the Orthodox Churches are in an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, we are not free to receive holy communion in these churches until full communion is reestablished. The fact that they celebrate valid sacraments, which by definition must flow through the Church, Christ’s body on earth, demonstrates that they are in some sense united to the Catholic Church - but only imperfectly so - their lack of full communion with the bishop of Rome, from a Catholic perspective, is a defect. From a Catholic perspective, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is comprised of those churches in communion with the successor of St. Peter - the Bishop of Rome. The various Orthodox Churches disagree.

A much better and more complete answer than mine.

Same ethnicity.

I put this on the other thread, but should have put it here instead:

I think that there might be a misconception here among some that the Coptic Orthodox Church is part of the Eastern Orthodox communion of Churches, when in fact it is part of the Oriental Orthodox communion of Churches (which also includes Churches like the Armenian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, along with a few others) which divided over the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon because of their belief that the human and divine natures of Christ were merged into one nature that has the characteristics of both. This position is called Miaphysitism, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches broke off with the rest of Christians because everyone else accepted the Council of Chalcedon, which the Oriental Orthodox Churches considered to be incorrect as it taught two separate natures of Christ rather than a single unified nature.

Just a little bit of historical info.

That does not quite explain the position of the Oriental Orthodox accurately. They affirm one nature because semantically, things which are united have become one (this is clear in Greek, where the word for union, ‘henosis’, has a clear semantic relation to the word for one, ‘hen’), but not because the union involves a mixing or confusion of the human and divine natures. This is nothing more than a Cyrillian phrasing, taken from St. Cyril of Alexandria. By the anathematisms of the Second Council of Constantinople, it is acceptable to confess both ‘out of two natures’ and ‘one incarnate nature of the Word’, so long as the two phrases are understood properly. The historical disagreement, then, is two fold. Firstly, do they understand ‘one incarnate nature of the Word’ and ‘out of two natures’ as we do? The answer seems to be affirmative based on modern dialogues. Secondly, do they believe that a Christological confession on ‘in two natures in contemplation alone’ is an acceptable Christology? The answer to this question seems to be up in the air.

I would have to re-read everything to be sure, but I don’t recall any confusion about that. The only confusion I noticed was the idea that Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholics are the same b/c they’re both Coptic.

I know no-one said it, but I wanted to make sure they knew that in case they were confused by the term Orthodox, especially people reading this thread but not posting it.

No, that position (of a “hybrid” single nature) is called Eutychianism, and it has always been condemned by the non-Chalcedonians. We believe as St. Cyril of Alexandria taught and believed, in “one nature of the incarnate Word of God” (μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη mía phýsis toû theoû lógou sesarkōménē). This is also clear from many of the prayers of our liturgies.

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