Meet Egypt's Bishop Tawadros, new Coptic Christian pope

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Pope Shenouda III, head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, leads Christmas mass in Abassiya Cathedral in Cairo on Jan. 6, 2011.

Credit:

MOHAMMED ABED

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church today chose Bishop Tawadros as their new pope, reported Reuters, putting the spotlight on a man the Christian minority hopes will help make their voices heard as Egypt's civic life takes shape following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak last year. 

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A small blindfolded child selected Tawadros' name from a list that had been whittled down from a ballot of some 2,400 candidates as part of the Coptic election tradition, said Reuters

The name selected by the child, Tawadros, wasn't always his. The cleric's mother named him Wagih Sobhy Bakky Suleiman when he was born in Egypt's Mansura delta region some 60 years ago today, according to Agence-France Press. (There were conflicting reports as to whether he turns 60 or 61 today.)

He studied medicine in his youth and managed a state-run pharmaceutical factory in the mid-eighties until, in 1985, he decided he wanted to be a priest, said AFP. He was consecrated in 1985, became a monk three years later, and was named a bishop in 1997.

He is to receive yet another title -- Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa -- at a November 18 consecration ceremony, said AFP

While respected for his theological strengths, AFP said Tawadros rarely touches on political matters. Nevertheless, Coptic activist and lawyer Peter el-Naggar told Reuters today he believes the new pope is "not the kind of man who would compromise in our rights."

"I have had dealings with Bishop Tawadros before and he is a very wise and calm man," 20-year-old Marina Nabil told Reuters amid incense at the ceremony in Cairo's Abbasiya cathedral today. 

Egypt's Coptic community is estimated to make up about a tenth of Egypt's 83 million, according to Reuters, a figure that includes the separate Coptic sect aligned with Rome. 

Coptic Christians have long complained of being persecuted and their interests sidelined in Egypt's majority Muslim society, and the recent election of the Muslim Brother's Mohammad Morsi as president has added to their concerns.