A truly historic event in our Coptic Church history occurred on Sunday 18 November 2012 that many of us have never witnessed – the enthronement of our new Patriarch, Pope Abba Tawadros II, Pope, Patriarch and Archbishop of the great city of Alexandria and the See of Saint Mark. The enthronement was a delightful and joyous spectacle for all those in attendance and thousands, if not millions of others watching on TV or online in Egypt and around the world.
The enthronement took place after the reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the Synaxarium, according to the rites of the church as a continuation to the work of the apostles and the saints until our day. Abba Tawadros was taken by a procession of a multitude of deacons, priests and the vast majority of metropolitans and bishops from the papal residence to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. The deacons welcoming him, rejoicing and chanting, “Evologimenos”, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord” to the locked door of the Cathedral. The keys to church were handed to then Bishop Tawadros by the archdeacon. He then took the keys and recited part of Psalm 118, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation” while the procession entered the cathedral ahead of him as the bells began to ring and the deacons began to chant a special hymn, “Omonogenees”.
The enthronement was led by H.E. Metropolitan Bakhomious, the locum tenens at the time who also guided him alongside HG Bishop Sarabamon of St Bishoy’s Monastery, where Pope Tawadros was ordained into the monastic order. Bishop Tawadros was seated before the sanctuary as the prayers began while tears continually rolled down his eyes. The attending metropolitans and bishops made supplications for Abba Tawadros to be filled with grace and be strengthened as the shepherd of His flock. H.E. Metropolitan Bakhomious called him and blessed him as Patriarch and then dressed him in his simple white vestments, like that of a monk.
The deed of the archbishop was read by numerous members of the Holy Synod, not only in Arabic but segments were also read out in other languages including English, French, Spanish, and German. Further supplications were made on behalf of the church and the new shepherd after the deacons had chanted a doxology for the Pope. Each metropolitan and bishop blessed bishop Tawadros’ vestments before he was clothed in full liturgical majestic attire. Many delegates from sister churches such as the Ethiopians, Armenians and the Syrians and the Indian participated in the service. He was dressed in each piece of clothing with corresponding prayers. When fully dressed he was led by Metropolitan Bakhomious to the altar where he received the staff of shepherding. This was done in the sanctuary the staff and thus the role of the shepherd is granted to him by God Himself. The deacons and the entire congregation erupted chanting, “Axios!”, “Worthy, Worthy, Worthy is Pope Abba Tawadros the archpriest!” Having claimed the staff he then proceeded to the papal throne to be fully enthroned. This was done over three stages taking one step up the throne at a time before being fully seated with the blessing of God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The cathedral again erupted, with everyone chanting “Axios!” He was then presented with a golden gospel of his successor as he sat on his very throne that of St Mark the apostle.
The deacons chanted joyous hymns to His Holiness Pope Tawadros before a Pauline epistle was read by some of the bishops. His Holiness came to read the gospel from the throne from John 10:1-16. He repeated the verse, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11) three times and the congregation again, each time responded chanting “Axios!” before the conclusion of the actual enthronement ceremony.
Among the notable attendees were HH Mar Ignatius Zaka I Iwas (the Patriarch of Antioch) along with several bishops who also delivered a word of love, along with various other church heads from the Armenian Apostolic Church. Patriarch Theodoros (Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria) spoke words of encouragement and deep love that we pray will exist between the two fathers. Although His Holiness did not address the congregation personally, he had prepared speech read out on his behalf, while Metropolitan Bakhomious also address the congregation, introducing them to their new patriarch. Other notable attendees included government official from the USA and Canada, dozens of consular officials and officials from other worldwide churches, including the various Catholic Church sent on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Notable Egyptian attendees included some prominent Muslim Sheikhs and also the Prime Minister, sent on behalf of the president and the government, Hisham Qandil.
After Metropolitan Bakhomious and Bishop Paula thanked many of the attendees, they congratulated His Holiness Pope Tawadros personally. The holy liturgy then resumed with His Holiness presiding and a number of metropolitans and bishops participating in his first liturgy as the enthroned pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In a touch to end an eventful day, His Holiness insisted on going the length of the cathedral to spray the dismissal water on his new flock and beloved congregation.