On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI sent a personal letter to the newly elected Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, “joyfully” granting him full ecclesial communion.
With this letter the Holy Father formally confirms the election of the 62 year-old former bishop of Minya by the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Coptic Church, which took place January 15th.
The 11 bishops of this Eastern Catholic Church based in Egypt had gathered last week in Cairo to elect a successor to Patriarch Antonios Naguib. Seventy seven-year-old Antonios Naguib became Patriarch in the spring of 2006 and in November 2010, Benedict XVI created him cardinal. He was also General Relator at the Synod of Bishops for the Churches of the Middle East. In December 2011, Patriarch Naguib suffered an intracranial haemorrhage.
His Successor Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak was born on 19 August 1955 in Beni-Chokeir, Asyut Governorate. He studied Philosphy and Theology on the St. Leo’s Patriarchal Seminary in Maadi (a suburb of Cairo) and was ordained a priest in 1980. For the following two years he served in the Parish of Archangel Michael in Cairo. Being sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University he received his doctorate in dogmatic theology. Between 1990 and 2001 he was the rector of the Patriarchal Seminary in Maadi. In October 2002 he was elected Bishop of Minya.
The offices of the Patriarchate are located in Cairo, but the largest concentration of Coptic Catholics has always been in Upper Egypt. In recent times there has been some migration to other parts of the country. The church now has seven dioceses, all of them in Egypt.
In his letter the Pope writes to the new Patriarch: “May the Lord help you in your ministry "Father and Head" to proclaim the Word of God, so that it is lived and celebrated with piety according to the ancient spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Coptic Church! May all your faithful find solace in the paternal solicitude of their new Patriarch!”.