Coptic Orthodox Church

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The Coptic Cross as a symbol of the Coptic Church is a modification of the Jerusalem Cross .

The Coptic Orthodox Church ( Coptic : Ϯ ⲉⲕ̀ⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ̀ⲛⲣⲉⲙ̀ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ̀ⲛⲟⲣⲑⲟⲇⲟⲝⲟⲥ) is the ancient oriental church of Egypt with - depending on the source - 5 to 11 million believers in Egypt. In addition, there are small Coptic churches in Libya, Sudan and a few other countries. The Coptic Orthodox Church is headed by a Pope , Tawadros II since 2012 .


The " Hanging Church " in Old Cairo
President Nasser Welcomes a Delegation of Coptic Bishops (1965)

The Coptic Church goes back to the Alexandrian-Egyptian Christianity of late antiquity ( Patriarchate of Alexandria ). Tradition has it that the founder of the Coptic Church is the Evangelist Mark , who is said to have lived in Egypt in the 1st century. According to Coptic tradition, Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria , where he died a martyr in 68 AD . That is why the church is also called the Alexandrian Church .

Growing segments of the population of Egypt joined the Church by the 7th century. Thereafter, the further development of Christianity was restricted by the Islamic conquest of Egypt. The Coptic Church used since the 2nd century next to the Greek Coptic language in Bible reading, prayer and preaching and since the Middle Ages, primarily as a sacred language .

Due to the disputes over the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the non-Chalcedonian or ancient oriental churches (including Syrians , Armenians , Copts , Ethiopians ) and the Chalcedonian churches ( Orthodox churches , Catholic Church ) split over the question of the doctrine of two natures .

Called Monophysites by the Chalcedonian churches , the ancient oriental churches prefer the term Miaphysites and see themselves in rejection of the actual Monophysite doctrine which they condemned. To distinguish herself from the Chalcedonian churches, she calls them Dyophysites . So you are of the opinion that Jesus Christ had two natures, but they were "unmixed, unchanged and undivided".

A union concluded between the Roman Catholic Church and the Coptic Church on the occasion of the Council of Florence on February 4, 1442 according to the Bull Cantate Domino had no consequences. In 1741, 1895 and 1947 there were further attempts at union by some Copts with the Roman Church, which resulted in the establishment of a competing, Rome-united Coptic Catholic Church . However, with only about 200,000 believers, and in terms of its importance, it cannot be compared with the Coptic Church.

On the occasion of the 1900 anniversary of the founding of the Coptic Church, the Roman Catholic Church presented part of the Venetian relics of St. Mark to the Copts in 1968 as a gesture of goodwill . Since then, they have been kept in the papal St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. The two churches saw this as the beginning of deeper relationships. In 1988, both churches adopted a formulation that largely eliminates the theological differences of opinion manifested in Chalcedon after more than 1500 years.

Doctrine and Structure of the Coptic Church

The Coptic Orthodox Church is headed by a Pope , from 1971 until his death in 2012 this was Schenuda III. as the 117th successor of St. Mark . On November 4, 2012, Bishop Tawadros II of Beheira was drawn as his successor from among the last three remaining candidates; his appointment to the office of Pope of the Coptic Church took place on November 18, 2012. Christian monasticism has its origin with the Copts and in this church has a rich tradition, it was through the hll. Antonius (around 251–356) and Pachomios (around 292–346).

The Copts fundamentally reject the teaching of the Egyptian Eutyches , in which the human nature of Jesus Christ is as it were absorbed by his divine nature, and are therefore not Monophysites . Eutyches spoke of "a drop of vinegar in the middle of the sea". The dogma of the Coptic Church corresponds to that of the Councils of Nicaea , Constantinople, and Ephesus , on which the Church Fathers unanimously determined Christ's nature. The Nicene Confession is used by the Coptic Church in its most original form, as passed by the Council of Nicaea. It says: "We believe in the one Lord, Jesus Christ, God's only Son, born of the Father before all time, light from light, true God from true God." This is the same creed as it is with a few supplements are used in many other churches of the East as well as the West.

According to Coptic dogma, Jesus has a God-human nature that is as united as fire and iron in a glowing piece of iron. Pope Dioscorus , the Patriarch of Alexandria , who defended the Orthodox faith at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, contradicted the separation of the two natures of Christ by saying: “I saw Christ weeping over Lazarus' death, so he is human, I saw him Lazarus from raise the dead, so he is God. I saw him sleeping in the boat, so he is human, I saw him calm the storm, so he is God. "


From all other Orthodox and Oriental churches, the Coptic Church differs in practical terms through its youth work , which is related to the Sunday School Movement, which is also unique, and its social services. It even has its own bishopric for social services and ecumenism . Education plays a big role in what is justified in Christology .

The election of the Pope takes place after a lengthy consultation process with the participation of all Coptic bishops and the Egyptian government by lottery in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo . The Serbian Orthodox Church has a similar procedure .


The liturgy in the Coptic Church, the shortest form of which is the liturgy of St. Basil's takes about three hours. It consists of morning incense, the Liturgy of the Hours ( third and sixth hours ), liturgy of the word (readings, gospel reading and sermon ) and anaphora (liturgy of the body) with intercessions , memory of the saints and communion . The liturgical form of the Coptic Church is the Coptic Rite based on the Alexandrian Rite .

Before the communion of every liturgy, the priest speaks the so-called “homologia”, in which he makes the confession: “I believe that this is the life-giving body [...] He made it one with his deity without mixing, mixing and changing. [...] In truth, I believe that his deity never left his humanity for a moment or a single moment. "


The head of the Coptic Church, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa , has his official seat in both Cairo and Alexandria . In fact, the patriarchate was transferred to Cairo, which was elevated to the capital in 973, as early as 1047. There, in the Abbassia district, is also the large area of ​​the Patriarchate with the St. Mark's Cathedral , consecrated in 1968, and the papal palace. The co-cathedral of the Patriarchate, however, is still St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria , a 20th century building that replaces the city's first church, traditionally founded in 1960 by the Evangelist Mark .

After the transfer of the patriarchate to Cairo, the Hanging Church from the 3rd century in Old Cairo (formerly Fustat ), upstream from the city center, became the papal cathedral. It is at the center of another cluster of Coptic and Christian institutions, including the St. George's Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria , which is also based in Cairo, and the Coptic Museum .

Before the consecration of the current St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo-Abbassia was the around 1800 by Pope Markos IX. consecrated St. Mark's Church in the central district of Azbakeya Cathedral Church of the Coptic Popes.


The membership numbers given below are estimates. This results from the social situation of the Copts in the Muslim environment.


  • For Egypt, most sources ( CIA World Fact Book , Egyptian government agencies, German Foreign Office , Vatican Radio ) assume 5 to 10% Christians, of which over 90% are Copts. Only the Fischer Weltalmanach from 2008 named, as did Coptic sources, much higher numbers of 12% to 15% Copts.
  • Ethiopia : The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (around 40 million members) has since the installation by Pope Kirellos VI. 1959 her own patriarch in Addis Ababa. The incumbent Abune Paulos requested and received in 1994 from Pope Schenuda III. full independence for the Ethiopian Church, which however continues to recognize the Pope of Alexandria as head of honor and the Coptic Church as its mother church.
  • Eritrea : The Eritrean Church, which previously belonged to Ethiopia, has 2 million members and received in 1998 from Pope Schenuda III. autocephaly as the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church . The archbishop of Asmara was made a patriarch. His throne is currently controversial, as the third patriarch, Abune Antoniyos , recognized by Alexandria and Ethiopia , was deposed and placed under house arrest and with Abune Dioskoros, a successor recognized only by the Eritrean government, was enthroned.
  • Kenya : some younger churches
  • Libya
  • Zambia : some younger parishes
  • Zimbabwe : some younger churches
  • Sudan : probably 260,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, rapidly declining since the introduction of Sharia law in 1983


The St. Antonius Monastery in Kröffelbach
  • Germany : Brenkhausen Abbey near Höxter (bishopric); Monastery in Waldsolms-Kröffelbach (near Wetzlar), churches in Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt ( St. Markus ), Duisburg (former Catholic church St. Bonifatius), Düsseldorf, Hanover, Berlin ( church St. Antonius and St. Schenuda ), Hamburg , Heidelberg, Mainz ( St. Kyrillos ), Trier, Leipzig and Wilhelmshaven St. Maria and St. Mauritius (former Roman Catholic Church of Stella Maris), Altena (formerly Reformed Church); Parishes without their own churches in Bonn and Bremen
  • Austria : approx. 5000, officially recognized since 2003. Monastery in Obersiebenbrunn ; Churches in Vienna , Graz , Klagenfurt, Linz and Bruck an der Mur; Parish without a church in Innsbruck
  • Switzerland : municipalities in Zurich, Basel, Biel, Vernier, Lausanne, Yverdon
  • United Kingdom : several parishes in London, Birmingham, Manchester and many more. In addition, the British Orthodox Church has been subordinate to the Patriarchate of Alexandria since 1994.
  • France : Several parishes in Paris, Marseille, Toulon, Strasbourg and many more
  • Italy : parishes in Milan, Turin, Rome and many more.
  • Greece : parishes in Athens and many more


  • Israel : Churches in Jerusalem and many more
  • Lebanon : around 2,000 (officially represented by the Syrian Orthodox Church)
  • Syria


  • Three dioceses in the United States with well over one million Copts (e.g., over 20 parishes each in New York and Los Angeles) and parishes in each major city.
  • Canada : Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver
  • Brazil : recently established diocese in Rio de Janeiro
  • Bolivia : recently established diocese of Bolivia


  • Almost a million Copts in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra)

Well-known Copts

See also


  • Wolfgang Boochs (ed.): History and spirit of the Coptic Church . Bernardus-Verlag, Aachen, 2nd, revised edition 2009, ISBN 978-3-8107-9184-9 .
  • Albert Gerhards, Heinzgerd Brakmann (ed.): The Coptic Church . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-17-012343-2 .
  • Karl Pinggéra : The Coptic Orthodox Church . In: Christian Lange , Karl Pinggéra (ed.): The old oriental churches. Belief and history . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2010, ISBN 978-3-534-22052-6 , pp. 63-76 .
  • H. Munier: Recueil des Listes Episcopales de l'Eglise Copte (Publications de la Société d'Archéologie Coptes. Textes et Documents), Le Caire, 1943, to be used with:
  • Jacob Muyser : Contribution à l'étude des listes épiscopales de l'Eglise Copte . In: Bulletin de la Sociéte d'Archeólogie Copte 10 (1944) 115-176.
  • Wolfgang Kosack : The Coptic Calendar of Saints: German - Coptic - Arabic, revised and completely edited from the best sources. Christoph Brunner, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-9524018-4-2 .
  • Wolfgang Kosack : Coptic Hand Lexicon of the Bohairischen Coptic - German - Arabic. Verlag Christoph Brunner, Basel 2013, ISBN 978-3-9524018-9-7 .
  • Wolfgang Kosack : Novum Testamentum Coptice New Testament, Bohairisch, edited by Wolfgang Kosack. Novum Testamentum, Bohairice, curavit Wolfgang Kosack. Coptic - German. Verlag Christoph Brunner, Basel 2014. ISBN 978-3-906206-04-2 .
  • Siegfried G. Richter : The Coptic Egypt. Treasures in the shadow of the pharaohs (with photos by Jo Bischof). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2019, ISBN 978-3-8053-5211-6 .

Web links

Commons : Coptic Orthodox Church  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Harenberg Aktuell (edited by Meyers and Brockhaus), p. 532: 94% Muslims versus 6% Christians in total (most of them Copts) / Spiegel-dtv-Jahrbuch 2004, p. 54: 90% Muslims versus 9% Copts / country information of the Foreign Office : 90% Muslims versus 6% Copts / CIA World Fact Book: 10% Christians
  2. a b Only the Fischer Weltalmanach 2011, p. 48, counts 80% Muslims compared to 6 to 15% Copts, but listed 85% Muslims compared to 12% Copts in 2006 and 90% Muslims compared to 9 to 10% Copts in 2003 (6 Million of 64 million), without providing an explanation for this significant shift within just five years. Just as inexplicably, the number of Copts in Egypt tripled (from 2 million to 6 million) within just two years (cf. Fischer WA 1996, p. 59, and Fischer WA 1998, p. 58) and you Share increased from 4.1% to 10.4% ... within just ten years (cf. Fischer WA 1996, p. 59, and Fischer WA 2006, p. 50) even quadrupled (from 2 million to 8.1 Million)!
  3. ^ Joint declaration by Pope Shenuda III. and Pope Paul VI. (1973)
  4. : One only thinks of a violent Islamization of Egypt January 23, 2007.
  5. Decision by lot: Bishop Tawadros becomes Pope of the Copts ( Memento of November 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) at, November 4, 2012 (accessed on November 4, 2012). New Coptic Pope used to run a factory , Die Welt on November 19, 2012 (accessed November 19, 2012)
  6. ^ Wolfram Reiss: Renewal in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The history of the Coptic Orthodox Sunday School Movement and the inclusion of its reform approaches in the renewal movements of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the present . LIT-Verlag, Hamburg / Münster 1998, ISBN 3-8258-3423-9 , p. 113 f.
  7. ^ Coptic Christians prepare to elect pope in Egypt. on: , April 23, 2012.
  8. Irinej (Patriarch)
  9. ^ Website of the Heidelberg community
  10. St. Kyrillos Church ( Memento from December 31, 2014 in the Internet Archive )