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March 11, 2013

Documentary on Coptic Orthodox Parishes in Jerusalem (The Church in Jerusalem)

There are around one thousand Copts in the Holy Land, and they could have been more had it not been for the self-restriction imposed by Pope Shenouda III (1971 – 2012) on Coptic Christians to visit Jerusalem in consequence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the fear of the Copts being targeted by Arabists and Islamists for visiting Israel. This is some of what Fr. Antonius al-Ourshalimi, Secretary of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, had to say or as I understood it to be. This we learn from the excellent documentary The Coptic Church in Jerusalem, which was produced sometime between 2005 and 2011 by the Association for the Promotion of the Extraordinary Prayer Initiative of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Pease, beginning in and proceeding from Jerusalem (APEPI) (V. Nebel, Geneva/Melida, Switzerland), in cooperation with the Franciscan Media Center, Jerusalem (Israel) and Cancao Nova (Brazil).

The documentary is 25 minutes long, and it emphasises the strong connection between Ancient Egyptian culture and Coptic Christianity, and talks about the Copts and their Church in the Holy Land. We have seen the current membership size of the Church, and we are told that Copts have always been in Jerusalem since early Christianity. There are four monasteries in the Holy Land, all named after Saint Antony, in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jaffa; and there is a nunnery in Jerusalem (named after Saint George). Coptia (i.e., the Coptic Community) in the Holy Land also has many churches and it is in possession of the Cistern of Saint Helena.

Though in Israel, the Coptic community retained strong connection with the Coptic Church in Egypt. It feels the suffering of the Copts in Egypt; and in the documentary one can feel the pain and tears in the eyes of Fr. Antonius as he talks about the persecution of the Copts in Egypt. All we want, he says, is to have peace and freedom and to feel happy in Egypt. Archbishop Dr. Anb Ibraham, Metropolitan and Vicar of Jerusalem for the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Near East, have a message of hope: We will remain in Egypt despite the persecution. Christ will defeat the world; He will never abandon us. We are his little flock; how can He leave us?

P.S. This hopefully will form a fist article in a series about Coptic Christianity in the Holy Land.



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