Egyptian Coptic Catholic Patriarch Resigns

The Coptic Catholic leader who suffered an intracranial haemorrhage a year ago is stepping down. His successor will be appointed within the next few days and will have the task of developing common strategies with Orthodox Copts.

Patriarch Antonios Naguib

Like the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Coptic Catholic Church will also soon have a new leader. The Synod of Coptic Catholic bishops has accepted Patriarch Antonios Naguib’s resignation letter. The eleven bishops of this Egypt-based Eastern Catholic Church met to choose his successor who is to receive Ecclesiastical Communion from the Bishop of Rome. The name of the new Patriarch could be announced by the end of the week. 

Seventy seven-year-old Antonios Naguib became Patriarch in the spring of 2006 and in November 2010, Benedict XVI created him cardinal. Naguib had taken a pragmatic rather than scaremongering approach to the Arab Spring upheavals and the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution on 25 January 2011 with the occupation of Tahrir Square. He put himself forward as one of the more “interventionist” representatives among the ranks of Eastern Catholic bishops. 

In an interview with Italian monthly newspaper 30Giorni in February 2011, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch had thanked “young patriots who led everyone to reject a flawed situation that had reigned in the country for too long,” he had taken on board the defensive position adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood from the start and had recognised the determining role the army played in pushing Mubarak to resign. 

In the months that followed, the Patriarch continued to make unexpected evaluations of the Egypt’s uncertain landscape. Then, on 31 December 2011, Antonios Naguib survived an intracranial haemorrhage, from which he never fully recovered. 

The Bishop of Assiut, Kyrillos William, relieved him from his responsibilities as deputy Patriarchal Vicar in February 2012.Anba Kyrillos is among the few figures who are considered as likely successors to Naguib. Some younger bishops have also come to the fore in recent months as likely candidates, including the 51-year-old Auxiliary Bishop of Coptic Catholics in Alexandria, Botros Fahim Hanna and the 57-year-old Bishop of Giza, Antonios Aziz Mina. 

Last week, the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri visited Egypt to see what the general feelings are like within the Coptic Catholic Synod.

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