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BISHOP GREGORIUS: ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COPTIC LANGUAGE

May 5, 2020

Bishop Gregorius

Bishop Gregorius (1919 – 2001)

NO MODERN BISHOP HAS SPOKEN THUS ON THE COPTIC LANGUAGE: THE COPTIC LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT TO PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY, SOLIDIFY OUR UNITY, AND PREVENT THE ENCROACHMENT OF ALIEN CULTURES INTO OUR NATIONAL DOMAIN.

If you read Coptic books or writings about the Coptic language you would be astonished that most of them put religious reasons in answer to the question about its importance: it’s important to understand the liturgy; it’s essential to preserve our hymns and chants; and so on. Only a minority understand the national dimension of the Coptic language – that it is important for the preservation of our national identity and the protection of our nation, our culture and religion; that without it the barriers between us and the Arabs will break, and that we will then be exposed to Arab and Muslim culture and be assimilated either through a process of Arabisation or Islamisation – thereby losing our culture or our members to Arabdom and Islam. I don’t believe those writers who confine the importance of our Coptic language to the religious domain don’t understand the significance of the Coptic language or the devastating effect of abandoning it on our nation and our church. I do think that they are restricted by fear from the Arab and Muslim dominated state and are unable to say the truth they know.

One Coptic intelligent and brave man however was able to tell the truth – the late Bishop Gregorius (1919 – 2001), Bishop of the High Institute for Coptic Studies. Below I produce a snapshot in Arabic of what he had to say on the importance of Coptic[1] and an English translation of it.

Bishop Gregorius2

“I do not find in the whole world a people that question the importance of preserving its true language, the language that is the heritage of the past and the unifying factor of the present. The neglect of our Coptic language was one of the big factors that were used by the invading occupier to abolish the [national] differences [between the different nationalities] that should have been preserved in order to form [an impenetrable] barrier [between the different nationalities] to protect our entity from breaking down and our unity from collapse.”

This is the language of a Coptic nationalist even if one does not realise: The Coptic language is important to preserve our national identity, solidify our unity, and prevent the encroachment of alien cultures into our national domain.

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[1] Taken from The Coptic Egyptian Language (in Arabic) by Nabil Sabry Ishak (Alexandria, 2012), p. 19.

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