The new leader of the Catholic Copts is 57-year-old Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, who up until now has been Bishop of the Coptic Catholic Episcopal See of Minya.
Ever since the first rumours
that filtered through from Egyptian Catholic circles, the Coptic
Catholic Synod initially had to convince the bishop to accept the role
as successor to outgoing leader Cardinal Antonios Naguib.
The new Patriarch was born on 19 August 1955
in Beni-Cliker, in the Eparchy of Assiut. He studied philosophy and
theology at the Major Seminary in Maadi, Cairo, and was ordained priest
in February 1980. He studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University,
graduating in Dogmatic Theology, a discipline he also taught at the
Seminary in Maadi.
Between 1990 and 2001 he was rector of the Seminary
and director of the Catechistic Office of Sakakini. In 2002 he became
parish priest of the Coptic Catholic Cathedral in Cairo. In September
that year the Synod selected him as Eparch of the Diocese of Minya,
where he also succeeded Antonios Naguib.
More than a fifth of the approximately 200
thousand-strong Coptic population is concentrated in the Minya area, 250
Km south of Cairo. In the last five years the Eparchy has
distinguished itself for its pastoral and social dynamism, focusing on
the catechesis and charity initiatives for the unemployed, prostitutes,
prisoners and families in crisis.
Ibrahim Sidrak supported and joined in the
apostolic fervour of his diocese. In recent years, the bishop attended
the Synod for Africa (2009) and the Middle East (2010). He has always
stood out for his balanced and realistic stances. When the revolution
broke out on 25 January 2011, he constantly stressed the inability of
the old regime to deal with the requests for change Egyptian society has
been making over the years, giving balanced judgements about the
attacks and violence against Christians both before and after the
In an interview with APIC news agency in spring 2012, he
said: “Attacks of this kind are part of the game, they aim to spread
chaos and divert attention from current problems, social problems for
The people demonstrate, they ask for their dignity to be
preserved and for improvements to their current physical condition, so a
diversion is created. The regime organises or allows attacks go ahead.
The Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood take advantage of this.
regime takes advantage of clashes between Muslims and Christians, using
tensions to their advantage.”
Now that Sidrak has been nominated as the new
Coptic Catholic Patriarch, unusual prospects are opening up for
collaboration with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.
Tawadros II is also
at the start of his patriarchal ministry in an Egypt marked -
politically - by the successes and hegemonic drive of Islamist forces.