In the past century, the ancient practice of selecting from among the monks for the Patriarchate of Alexandria has been replaced with selection from among the bishops. There has been a great deal of debate surrounding the legality and correctness of this practise. This site began as an open letter from the Coptic Orthodox of Canada asking the Synod to follow the canons of the Church, which forbid the transfer of a bishop from one diocese to another. There has also been a great deal of debate over whether the canons apply to the order of general bishops, and even whether there ought to be such a thing as a general bishop (an innovation of the 20th century).
H.H. Pope Tawadros II was selected, and is now the 118th Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, the See of St. Mark. Axios! Axios! Axios!
This site was taken down for some time, as the time for argument has passed, the decision is made. It is now back up in order to serve as a collection of good references as the church continues to debate the role of general bishops, and the bylaws governing the selection of the Patriarch. As such, many of the articles specific to past events will gradually be removed in order to leave only that which is still relevant.
Father Peter Farrington
The election of the final three candidates eligible to be chosen as the Patriarch of Alexandria is fast approaching. In just a few weeks a new Pope will be selected and will be enthroned as the successor of St Mark. One of the most interesting aspects of the selection process is that the final choice of a candidate will be made by a small child choosing one name by an altar lot from the three which were most successful in the election process. This method of selection has generated a great deal of interest around the world, since in Christian communities such as the Roman Catholic, or the Church of England, the selection of a primate does not introduce allow for any such element of providence. At this unique time in the lives of many Coptic Orthodox it is useful to consider the altar lot and its use in the present selection of the new Pope.
A member of the Coptic Orthodox Church
At a time of transition in the Coptic Orthodox Church, while the process of electing a new Pope takes place, many people are asking how the rank of General Bishop fits into the Orthodox Tradition of the Church. It must be said that the many General Bishops who have been consecrated over the last 50 years are deserving of all respect and honour for their service in and to the community of the Coptic Orthodox Church. But this does not mean that it is inappropriate to ask whether the increasing numbers of General Bishops in the Church, now comprising almost one third of the Holy Synod, is a development in accordance with the Orthodox Tradition.
In the first of these four short articles we have seen that it was an ecumenical council, the most authoritative and important decision making body in the Church, which decided that it would not be allowed for bishops to move from one diocese to another. We have also seen that the bishops gathered at this council of Nicaea were well aware that in some places bishops were being transferred, but they completely rejected this practice believing that it caused harm to the life of the Church. In the second article we looked at several examples from the period after Nicaea, and we saw that in each case the canon or rule against the transfer of bishops was carefully preserved. Then, in the third article, we considered the history of the transfer of bishops in the Church of Rome, and in the Syrian Orthodox Church. We discovered that all the time that Rome remained Orthodox it rejected the transfer of bishops, even digging up the body of a bishop who had worked over many years to become the Pope of Rome, so that the body could be stripped of the papal vestments. While in the case of Syria we saw that after the council of Nicaea there were no transfers of bishops certainly until the end of the 10th century. Far from the canon of Nicaea being ignored, we find that everywhere it is being applied until relatively recently.
The second article in this series ended with a note that this third article would consider the history of the transfer of bishops over a much larger period of history to allow us to understand when and why some Orthodox Churches did begin to allow the transfer of bishops, and to show that the Church in Egypt always resisted such changes until very recent times.
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In the first article in this series we considered one of the canons or rules which was formulated at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This fifteenth canon forbade the transfer of one bishop to another see, and was especially enacted to prevent the disturbances associated with such movements of bishops. This canon was considered necessary to preserve the stability of the Church and continuity in the ministry of bishops. If bishops could be transferred then bishops might enviously set their sights on larger dioceses, and larger dioceses might set their sights on the most capable and well-known of bishops.
- The Translation of Bishops (Part I), Fr. Peter Farrington
- Fr. Athanasius asks, "Is the Altar Lot Infallible?"
- Letter From H. G. Bishop Demetrius To The Holy Synod (Aug 2012)
- An Academic Understanding of Canon 15 from Abp L'Huiller
- Choosing the Patriarch: Lessons from the History of our Glorious Church (H.G. Anba Serapion)
- Can A Diocesan Bishop be Moved to the Patriarchate? -- H.G. Anba Youssef